Allah, Thor, Posseidon and Zeus.

May 1, 2010

Why choose the God of the Bible over Zeus, or Thor, the great Juju at the bottom of the sea, or any other pagan god? Since there’s “no good reason” to pick Yahweh over any other god, I’m told, we should simply dismiss the idea of gods altogether.

As Stephen Roberts says:

I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

But this argument doesn’t make sense. Even if there was no good reason to choose God of the Bible over any other, this isn’t a good argument for atheism. Let me explain. Atheism says we should dismiss all gods. But even if I didn’t know which one of several options is true, that doesn’t mean I should dismiss them all. Just because someone don’t know what the hundredth digit of π is, does not mean that we should dismiss the fact there is one. There is a hundredth digit of π. Not knowing which one it is, is not a reason for dismissing them all. It is a reason for searching for the right one.

All conceptions of God are not the same. They’re fundamentally (no pun intended) different. One of the most obvious chasms is the canyon between world’s monotheistic religions – Islam, Judaism, and Christianity – on on one side and pagan belief systems on the other. Pagan beliefs have their gods planted firmly in nature, as if you could look down a microscope and see him. Monotheistic beliefs about God are much more awe inspiring. They don’t think God can be discovered in nature, but instead view him as the author, creator and sustainer of it all.

The pagan view makes no sense to me. If you take a piece of metal and bang it one way it becomes a “god”; bang it another way it becomes a pot or a pan. Personally I cannot see how it can ever be more than a piece of metal, not a “god”. This takes many forms, from worshipping statues or the earth, the moon or the sun, right the way up to pantheism (which Dawkins describes as sexed up atheism). I have much the same problem with all of them: I can’t see how the universe could possibly create itself. A pot or a pan did not create the universe. It can’t even move itself. It’s totally clear to me these things are not God.

Jeremiah put it like this:

3 They cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.

4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter.

5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”

However, the most important reason I have for rejecting other gods is another thing that an atheist cannot claim to share: I find Jesus Christ compelling. It is how we respond to Jesus Christ which sets us apart. The main reason I am not a pagan, a Muslim, an atheist or a Jew is because of what I think of this man, Jesus. I am not an atheist with respect to belief in Allah or Zeus, I am a Christian. Unlike an atheist who tries to tear down other people’s beliefs, and ridicules everyone, I can offer positive, uplifting reasons for what I believe – and I hope, do that with gentleness and respect.

So I guess I have reasons for rejecting Stephen Roberts claim: Different conceptions of God are not equal. While some conceptions of God make no sense at all, others make a lot. Just because we reject the illogical picture of God, and keep a logical one doesn’t make us atheists. Finally, unlike atheists, Christians can offer positive, respectful reasons for what we believe, which isn’t solely based on disrespect and ridicule of those we don’t agree with.

As always comments are welcome and criticism is encouraged. Thanks for reading!

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67 Responses to “Allah, Thor, Posseidon and Zeus.”

  1. Mr Z Says:

    “Finally, unlike atheists, Christians can offer positive, respectful reasons for what we believe, which isn’t solely based on disrespect and ridicule of those we don’t agree with”

    How is that respectful of atheists?

    You have no more proof of the existence of Jesus than you do for God. The Christian faith is still based on the God of Abraham and he is a blood thirsty, genocidal, jealous, monomaniacal, vengeful creation of mankind. No matter how much you claim your version of Christianity is better than the others, or nothing like the Christians of the past, if pick and choose what parts of the Christian Bible to adhere to or believe in, you are creating your own religion. That makes you no better than someone picking out a tree and calling it God.

    If the Bible is true, then it’s all true. If any part of it is not true, you can’t rely on any of it being true.

    Now go out there and kill some homosexuals and get ready to find out which of your neighbors needs killing tomorrow for working on the day of rest. Be a good Christian and uphold the laws of your God.

  2. Chucky Says:

    Hi Mr Z,

    The point is that atheists can only make a negative case, trying to pull down other people’s beliefs. I am not claiming to make a different religion. I’m saying the Bible is true. Perhaps at some point I’ll post on the different types of law in the Bible for you.

  3. Joey Says:

    When you say “negative case” you are abusing the connotations of the word “negative”. You are right that atheist don’t affirm anything supernatural, but there is nothing “negative” about that.

  4. Rosita Says:

    ===However, the most important reason I have for rejecting other gods is another thing that an atheist cannot claim to share: I find Jesus Christ compelling.===
    1. The problem is that the concept of Jesus Christ is unique to each person who claims to be a Christain. If such a person or god actually existed, and it had any real influence on the human mind and psyche and it was wise, caring and intellectually honest, then there would be an overwhelming human consensus on the nature of this supernatural element. There is not. Ergo a god with these characteristics cannot exist. If a lesser (flawed) supernatural being exists then why would you think it worth worshipping?
    2. “Compelling” subjective experience is an extremely unreliable and weak form of evidence. It is given little credence in courts of law which are concerned with determining truth, and no credence in the behavioural sciences which spend a great deal of effort to construct experiments which cancel out the bias of subjective experience.
    Modern neuroscience documents the brain functioning of people who have religious and mystical experiences which seem extremely compelling to them. The pattern is the same, regardless of which god or supernatural being the subject believes they are experiencing and whether they believe in a god at all. (Many Buddhists and other meditators do not). The connecting feature behind these intense experiences is the shut-down and malfunction of a section of brain above and behind the right ear. When this part functions normally the person can tell the difference between their “self” and things which are “outside self”. When this breaks down the boundaries between self and non-self break down. They may believe themselves to be in communion with something outside themselves that they are outside their body, that they are split into two being in two different places, that they are standing behind themselves, or that something is standing behind or beside them – a shadowy “presence” in the room with them which they do not recognize as themselves.
    When this part of the brain shuts down there is none of the essential feedback and monitoring information available to add to the memory of the event. When people come out of it they have no way of comparing what they experienced with reality. This does not happen to those who have a psychotic experience or a drug-induced hallucination caused by breakdown of functions in other parts of the brain. In these instances the person who is no longer under the influence of drugs or psychosis can usually tell that what seemed real at the time was actually not-real. People who have mystical, religious, out-of-body and near-death experiences do not store the information which would enable them to make a meaningful comparision. The bottom line here is that while the religious experiencer is convinced that the phenomena was a true experience of the supernatural their brain scans provide strong evidence that it is merely the result of abnormal or faulty brain functioning. While many people can achieve this state via various self-hynotic, trance-inducing and focusing techniques others experience these phenomena as the result of enviromental manipulations by preachers and evangelists. Still others experience these phenomena as the result of temporary brain pathology (some forms of temporal lobe epilepsy ) or permanent brain damage to the right temporo-pariental junction.
    In other words, beliefs based on “compelling” personal experience are based on very low standards of proof which are fed by ignorance and self-delusion. Your authority (your subjective non independently verified perception) has exactly the same blind spots and areas of ignorance as you do.
    Speaking of “blind spots”, their existence in human vision is one of the many instances of what has been called evidence of “stupid design” of the world’s flaura and fauna. (See Niel de Grasse Tyson’s hilarious web-hosted video about such failings.) Unlike the superior octopus eye, the human eye developed “inside out”. There are two natural holes in your vision (the “blind spots”) where the optic nerve bundle breaks through the surface of the retina and where there are therefore no visual receptors. No matter how hard you look at the scene in front of you, you will not be able to see these holes in your vision. Why? The brain fills them in with fuzzy material that is enough like the surrouding material to fool you into thinking that you see things where you do not. You will only be able to detect these areas if you use special tests designed by vision researchers. While some of these are simple they will not enable you to see the holes in your vision once you stop the procedure.
    This is only one of many illusions of knowledge and certainty which the brain forces on humans. All feelings of religious certainty stem from these, except for any instances which can be objectively measured. (While I cannot think of any such instances they could conceivably exist.) Human testimony is the lowest form of evidence known to man because it is extremely vulnerable to inbuilt delusion. .

    === I am a Christian. Unlike an atheist who tries to tear down other people’s beliefs, and ridicules everyone, I can offer positive, uplifting reasons for what I believe – and I hope, do that with gentleness and respect.==

    This is a delusion on your part. The whole basis of Christianity consists of ridiculing and tearing down opposing beliefs. The Bible is full of it.

    ===Different conceptions of God are not equal. While some conceptions of God make no sense at all, others make a lot. Just because we reject the illogical picture of God, and keep a logical one doesn’t make us atheists. ===

    This is “cherry picked” religion. There are huge sections of the Christian Bible, especially in the Christian Old Testament, which contain “conceptions of God” which “make no sense at all” in the light of modern humanistic values and perceptions. The models of god and the models of people whom this god holds up as examples of “rigteous” people are extremely flawed in relation to the standards acceptable to well socialized citizens of modern civilized societies.
    This is a problem for Christians who believe that their god is revealed in these scriptures, especially if they also believe that the current cannon is the infallible “word of god” which any “true believer” ™ can infallibly interpret. When the morals of these Christians are superior to those outlined in their scriptures The Believer has to choose between the values which he has internalized as “moral” and the inferior morals outlined in his holy books. The cognitive dissonance is extreme and requires the sacrifice of reason, integrity, memory, attention or the religious belief. The most common response is to ignore and avoid any material which leads to discomfit and cognitive dissonance. Another is to encapsulate material that has aleady been discovered in a mental cocoon which is impervious to the logic and rational strategies used to interact with the rest of ones world.
    Which is your favourite stategy?

    ==Finally, unlike atheists, Christians can offer positive, respectful reasons for what we believe, which isn’t solely based on disrespect and ridicule of those we don’t agree with.===

    This is a delusion. Christianity is full of strident apologists who are extremely disrespectful of atheists, adherents of other religions, members of rival sects and denomninations and even of members of their own congregations who happen to disagree with their particular interpretation of “god’s will” or “god’s mind”. This is the reason why Christianity has been the prime cause of so many wars and persecutions over the centuries. It has an extremely sorry track record in this respect. It’s most horrific forms of “disrespect” have been performed by those who are strongly insistent that they are acting out of the “love of god”. Religion in blind.

  5. Chucky Says:

    By negative, I mean one which is only designed to tear things down. I don’t need to be negative – and can actually offer reasons for what I think and why.

  6. Chucky Says:

    Thank you for commenting.

    1. It is possible that humans sin, which has estranged us from God.

    2. If I find something compelling then that’s good enough for me. Apparently my mind is working just fine when I think about anything else, but as soon as I think about God, then you think my brain is malfunctioning. That seems self-referentially incoherent. Why is it not the other way around? Why are atheists not the ones with the blind spot?

    My favourite “strategy” is to make the best sense of the Bible which I am able.

  7. Mr Z Says:

    to add to a theme, you are deluded if you believe that atheist can only make their case by trying to pull down other people’s beliefs. The atheist case is simple: there are no gods, and there is no evidence to support the notion or belief that there are.

    Now, Christians come along and say ‘oh yes there is evidence and oh yes God is real’ and take the argument to the place where one of the few options in discourse is to pull down the Christian beliefs. Christians do not present any evidence for God that is believable except to those who already believe. Have you personally witnessed a physical manifestation of a god? Did anyone experience what you did when you thought you experienced god?

    The only reason that you have Christian faith is because of the Bible and it’s adherents penchant for trying to ensure all people believe as they do. If the Bible is removed from the equation, the answer is that Christianity is false. So while Christians hold up their Bible as evidence the only real option is to ridicule it as very poor evidence of anything other than bronze age man’s ability to spin a good tale.

    When you pick and choose what parts of your holy text you find acceptable you ARE creating your own religion, no matter that you call it Christianity. A poor choice at best since it implies (if not outright mandates) that you pro-actively support a group of people who are criminal, unethical, and corrosive to society on the whole. You might want to call yourself a neo-Christian or say you belong to ‘The Christians who don’t do bad things’ denomination.

    So while you would like to concentrate on supporting your right to believe in fairy tales, atheists and others look at the group of people who call themselves Christians and think “these people are dangerous and need to be stopped.” You lose your right to an equal place in civilized society when you choose to support groups and ideas that are corrosive to that society. Note that there are more religions than Christianity which fit this bill.

    So, if your Bible is true do you seek to kill homosexuals? How about those who eat shellfish? or disobedient children? Your God demands that you murder others, and condemn them for not believing as you do. This is the God of Abraham. Is that your God?

    Good luck with your new religion.

  8. Mr Z Says:

    See my reply above – Atheism is not designed to tear religion down. Atheism is the state of not believing in any deity. To oppose atheism you have to provide evidence that there is a god. When you present evidence and the atheist says that evidence is no good, silly, or delusion it is not to tear you down, it is simply in rejection of the evidence offered as proof of your wild claims.

  9. Mr Z Says:

    Chucky, I hope that realize that when scientific evidence was presented to you ,you ignored it, dismissing it summarily with the question of “Why is it not the other way around? Why are atheists not the ones with the blind spot?” This means that either you don’t understand science or you simply wish to believe only in science that supports your delusions, as far as I can tell. If true, this makes you a danger to society, and most certainly corrosive to it.

    Trying to make the best sense of the Bible as you are able to is not indicative of an all powerful deity laying down clear definitive laws. Why is your holy text so contradictory and difficult to understand?

  10. arah Says:

    Quran, Surah 5:Ayat: 82-83 “And thou wilt find the nearest of them in affection to those who believe (to be) those who say: Lo! We are Christians. That is because there are among them priests and monks, and because they are not proud. When they listen to that which hath been revealed unto the messenger, thou seest their eyes overflow with tears because of their recognition of the Truth. They say: Our Lord, we believe. Inscribe us as among the witnesses”

    A Christian Minister’s Conversion to Islam



    How the Bible Led Me to Islam:




    http://www.usislam.org/converts/converts.htm








    May Almighty God the Creator please with all of you, for what you have done helping mankind and will Allah give you peace and happiness in this world and Jannah in the hereafter.

    AMEN

  11. Mr Z Says:

    BTW, in your rebuttal numbered 1. you use an argument that presumes the existence of God. Since the presumption is false, the argument fails flatly.

    In your rebuttal numbered 2. you assume the comments are inferring that Christians and others experience ‘god’ because of a malfunction in the brain. I do not think that this is an accurate reflection or summary of what was said. Your car is not functioning normally (in a normal manner) if it is going in reverse gear at 55 miles per hour. It can function this way, so it’s not broken. It’s just not normal for it to function that way. What was said is that when people have those experiences (such as were noted) the brain is not functioning in it’s fully normal state or mode, and thus the brain’s owner is not getting all the information they need to correctly observe and interact with the world at that moment. In fact it was stated that memory is interfered with such that a full memory recall of what happened in that moment is not possible.

    The book “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor goes into great depth about this type of situation. She’s a ‘brain scientist’ who had a stroke that shut down half of her brain. You should read it – maybe 8-10 bucks on Amazon.

    Also stated by Rosita (and stated well) was mention of those who meditate and manage to get the same abnormal brain function through meditation and self induced trances. So, clearly you don’t have to be stupid, broken, or psychotic for this to happen, and it can be repeated often without lasting physical effects as far as I know.

    Atheists brains are capable of functioning in this abnormal manner as well, we just don’t think we were in communication with an omniscient, omnipotent, supernatural deity when it happened. That’s a big difference.

  12. Chucky Says:

    I didn’t ignore it. Have you seen the video that’s referred to? It’s a bit silly. He complains that he is not superman, able to see all different frequencies. He even complains that carbon dioxide is poisonous and doesn’t smell.

    Personally I simply don’t share his views. I’m grateful for every second of existence that I have, and I did nothing to deserve this great gift!

  13. Chucky Says:

    1) The original objection assumes the existence of God.

    2) Well there seemed to be a lot of trying to convince me that I was “delusional”. I don’t experience any of the cognitive-dissonance I’m supposedly meant to. Most of this is just simply name-calling. I could say exactly the same thing to you guys, but I’m not that rude.

    I’ve offered a logical and reasonable explanation which points out why a common atheist argument is wrong.

  14. Chucky Says:

    Well that’s not the atheist case offered by Roberts. This case argues that all religions are essentially alike, and so that the reasons why someone disagrees with Zeus are the same reasons that someone has for disagreeing with Yahweh. I hope I’ve shown why that argument is false.

    How about if I wrote a blog post about Levitical laws which you’re mentioning? I think that’s a whole new topic in itself.

  15. Chucky Says:

    Atheist arguments are designed to do that. This one, for example, apparently claims that all gods are much the same, when they’re obviously not. Apparently we’re meant to feel the same scorn you mention for others – but the fact is that I don’t. I am perfectly happy to discuss with anyone what what they believe and why.

  16. Chucky Says:

    Thank you arah,

    As I said in my post, I think what separates us most is the person of Jesus.

  17. Joey Says:

    Exactly, “tear things down” is also heavy with “negative” connotations.

    You only hear “negative” things because that is all you are listening for. When I became an atheist, it was the most positive outlook on life, the world, and humanity that I had ever had. It increased my understanding, and gave me new things to be happy about. Your view on atheism is extremely short-sighted.

  18. Chucky Says:

    I am talking about the types of arguments someone can make, not about someone’s outlook on life.

    If I say “Greek beliefs are wrong because we can look up Mount Olympus, and see that Zeus isn’t there”, that’s a negative argument. Both you and I can offer that type of argument.

    However, I can also offer positive evidence for what I do believe: We have good historical evidence for Jesus, for example.

    Having my reasons is a good thing. I don’t have to disagree, no matter what they say. I can simply offer more reasons for what I believe than what they offer for theirs.

  19. Mr Z Says:

    ==I am talking about the types of arguments someone can make, not about someone’s outlook on life.==

    When believers say they have reasons to believe in a god, and non-believers disagree with that reason or logic, how can that be expressed without you calling it negative, or tearing down?

    ==If I say “Greek beliefs are wrong because we can look up Mount Olympus, and see that Zeus isn’t there”, that’s a negative argument. Both you and I can offer that type of argument.==

    This is not a negative argument, it is a negative evidential observation. To observe that Zeus is not actually on Mount Olympus is not an argument, it is an observation. It’s actual evidence.

    ==However, I can also offer positive evidence for what I do believe: We have good historical evidence for Jesus, for example.==

    You may indeed argue that there is positive evidence in written record for the life of a man named Jesus in the same general time frame and area claimed in the Bible, but what you don’t have is credible evidence for any of the claimed miracles, including that resurrection trick. This is not a negative argument, but restating what has been observed.

    ==Having my reasons is a good thing. I don’t have to disagree, no matter what they say. I can simply offer more reasons for what I believe than what they offer for theirs.==

    So, restating your beliefs more often makes you right somehow? Really?

    A large number of atheist and agnostics would like to see real evidence for why they should believe. It has yet to be shown. That also is not a negative argument, but a statement of observation.

    Can you per chance offer reasons why your specific beliefs are better or more correct than any other Christian sect?


  20. “Even if there was no good reason to choose God of the Bible over any other, this isn’t a good argument for atheism. Let me explain. Atheism says we should dismiss all gods. But even if I didn’t know which one of several options is true, that doesn’t mean I should dismiss them all. Just because someone don’t know what the hundredth digit of π is, does not mean that we should dismiss the fact there is one. There is a hundredth digit of π. Not knowing which one it is, is not a reason for dismissing them all. It is a reason for searching for the right one.”

    So… your entire argument is “we know for sure there’s a god, because we know, because we know”?

    Excuse me for not finding this to be a compelling argument.

    They can’t all be right, but they can all be wrong.

  21. JD Says:

    There can be an uplifting promotion of Christianity or any other belief system, but most of the examples I see aren’t uplifting, often without being provoked too. I know it’s anecdotal, but I’ve seen plenty of cases where Christians belittle other belief systems or throw Pascal’s Wager into the discussion (A layman’s summary: don’t believe in my God? you better be right, if you are wrong, you’re going to hell). Sorry, not uplifting.

    Being positive about it is good, but I think that someone making an affirmative statement about something has the burden of showing everyone else what they believe is true.

    Simple things like prayer from a believer has been tested in double-blind studies to no statistically significant outcome. If something as simple as prayer does work, there’s still no evidence it does from a controlled study. Controlled studies work to rule out psychological effects, such as forgetting the negative results and remembering only the positive results.

  22. Mr Z Says:

    I disagree, atheism does not say we should dismiss all gods as a matter of course. Atheism says there is no evidence of any gods, therefore there are no gods. You do not understand atheism, it is not a ‘belief’ but a lack of belief. Atheist will be the first to tell you that we don’t know a lot of things. There may indeed be a god like being in the universe… but there is no evidence of such a being, hence the likelihood of the existence of such a being approaches zero over time.

    Your example of the digits if pi is poor. We, as a species, know the 100th digit of pi. If I personally don’t know it there is no loss or lack of information, and there remains much evidence of the existence of any given digit of pi. On the other hand we as a species do NOT have evidence or proof of an all knowing, all powerful, all present, supernatural being. If there was such evidence atheists would not be atheists, or many of them would not be. You seem to assume that atheism is dogma when in fact it is the result of lack of any evidence or proof of any gods. Show proof and evidence and you will have some new converts.

    Your continued search for the ‘right god’ is futile IMO. If there is a god and it doesn’t want to be known, then you’re not going to find it. If it does want to be known, it’s not smart enough to leave a bit of evidence laying around.

    We know for sure that so far there is no evidence of any creator gods or supernatural deities. We also know that anyone who claims there is a god or supernatural entity has failed to show any credible evidence of such. We know that life on Earth does not require a god or religion. We know a great many things that all point toward religion and gods being hoaxes, cons, tricks, and means for controlling society. Your assumption in places that there is a god is false. There is no evidence that should lead you to make such an assumption. Such assumptions are problematic at best, and delusions on a normal day. When people point at all the religions as evidence that there must be something, they fail to see that each such religion was an attempt to control others or explain things that had no other explanation at the time. The one underlying function of all religions is to explain what cannot yet be explained. Science is putting such a function to rest, supplanting it.

    In the end, if you want to believe in magic deities that’s ok, but you’re going to have to show evidence of that deity if you want others to believe too. Without evidence it’s just a delusion.

  23. Chucky Says:

    Hi Mike,

    My argument here is simply that all faiths are not alike. To me it seems like an insult to the intelligence of the person not to realize how fundamentally different they are.

    > So… your entire argument is “we know for sure there’s a god, because we know, because we know”?

    This is a reason why this common catch-cry of atheists is illogical, not an argument for God’s existence.

    One of the reasons I had for starting this blog was to give some reasons for believing what I do, and if you would like to stick around I’ll be slowly blogging about that in my free time, and you’re more than welcome to keep me honest as I go.

  24. Chucky Says:

    Hi JD,

    Pascal’s “Pensees”! That is an interesting book, and I thought maybe I should link to it here as example of someone going through one by one and giving logical reasons why he believed in the God of the Bible and not in other conceptions of God. Have a read, because I think (from my bad memory) that you’ve got the argument the wrong way around – that you stand to gain everything, eternal life and even if you are wrong the cost is that of having lived a good and moral life. I’m not offering you that argument, simply putting it right as I remember it.

    Is there a reason we should assume atheism? It doesn’t seem to fit as well with the world I see it. Personally I don’t think extreme skepticism is a particularly good way to find the truth, as I explain here:

    https://thoughtfulfaith.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/doubting-skepticism/

    But it’s an interesting question. Why should, for example, we not start with beliefs which lead to us living the most moral lives possible – or ones which lead us to be most loving and forgiving of each other?

    > Simple things like prayer from a believer has been tested in double-blind studies to no statistically significant outcome.

    And of course there are many studies which do show that religious belief and practice is beneficial (check out the Handbook of Religion and Health). I think we can safely say that imagining that man is sovereign and treating God as a candy machine in the sky doesn’t work. On the other hand God is faithful to his promises to bless people faithful to him, although obviously a Christian can’t just expect that – in fact they should expect hardship in many cases. Isn’t that the picture painted in the Bible?

  25. Andrew Says:

    I think there are a few different arguments pursued here, but they don’t necessarily work well to back each other up. Sorry for the length of this comment!

    For example, you say:

    Even if there was no good reason to choose God of the Bible over any other, this isn’t a good argument for atheism.

    To back up theism, you use the analogy that even if we don’t know the hundredth digit of pi, we should still note that there is one and search for it.

    However, what would dispose us to believe that there is a hundredth digit of pi in the first place? And furthermore, what would lead us about choosing what that digit is?

    With the case of pi, the reason is that in our various calculations of pi, we understand it to be an irrational, never-ending number. And our understanding of such irrational numbers makes it compelling to believe that we should expect such a hundredth digit. And since we do have mechanisms of calculating pi, we can calculate which digit the hundredth one is.

    Do we have reason to believe that there ought to be a god? This is where theists and atheists disagree; that’s all there is to it. As you write, you find something compelling to Christ and Christianity. That is why you believe. But in the same way, you do not find paganism, Islam, or atheism itself compelling. In fact, you go so far as to say that “the pagan view doesn’t make any sense” to you. So you do not believe those things.

    So, the issue is…are the same things compelling to each of us?

    I think it is self-evident that, at least in the realm of religion, it is not. Whether you want to prescribe it to something supernatural (e.g., the fallen state of man) or whatever, for whatever reason, we have a world where people find different things compelling.

    I think this relates to another argument you put forward. So, you have established that you find aspects of Christianity *compelling*. When you say you can name positive, uplifting reasons for what you believe, I think you are referring to the things that compel you about Christianity (I hope you will find this to be a reasonable connection.)

    But then you say that atheists don’t have positive, uplifting, “constructive” reasons for their atheism. After all, atheism “cuts down” and “dismisses” theistic propositions.

    I think that in a way, this is trivially true, but also in a more important sense, it misses the point (and so is false).

    Since atheism is simply lack of belief in gods, at some level, I have to say, “well, duh.” I haven’t read all of the comments here, but it seems that much of the disagreement has been in the *connotations* of the term “negative”. You have either been coy or obtuse to the connotations of the term in your responses, but I think you mean the connotations when you contrast “negative” not only with “positive” but with “uplifting.” I think that reveals your true position.

    Well, I’ll try to go a couple of routes to try to shake things up. Firstly, the simple route: why do atheists lack beliefs in deities? Because they do not find the various beliefs compelling. If you look at Stephen Roberts’ quote, I think that it relates very well to this idea. I think you’re reading a lot of assumptions into the quote that simply aren’t there. What I think it is saying is something that you yourself should agree with: you say the “pagan view” makes no sense. You presumably do not find Islam compelling, nor atheism, nor (insert religion other than Christianity). So what Roberts is saying is, “Hey, I also do not find Islam or paganism compelling. But I also do not find Christianity compelling.”

    You have argued that Roberts (or, at least, someone) views all religious claims as interchangeable or “the same.” I don’t think Roberts is doing that, except in ONE sense. He is saying that to him, all religious claims are not compelling to him for one shared reason (one that you already mentioned for paganism) — it does not make sense to him as paganism does not make sense to you.

    So, the question is not to try to equalize paganism’s teachings with Christianity (because obviously, you feel Christianity makes sense…or at the very least, it resonates with you…so such a conflation wouldn’t work). But what Roberts (and other atheists) are saying is: in a generic sense, if you can imagine the way that paganism “doesn’t make sense” to you and doesn’t compel you, imagine that that is true also for atheists, but also applies to Christianity.

    OK, so the last claim that should be addressed…I think that you are comparing the wrong things. You are comparing Christianity and atheism. You note that you have “positive, uplifting” reasons for Christianity, but that atheism is negative. It “tears things down.”

    Well, I think the issue is that Christianity and atheism are not the same kinds of positions. Christianity is a positive position (used only in the sense that it posits things). So, of *course* it will construct things.

    But atheism is not one of these things. From atheism, you don’t learn anything about an individual other than the fact that they do not believe in deities. You have come this far, and you now assume, “Well, atheists are just negative, and they tear things down!”

    Well, I’d argue that atheists *do* have “positions”…a worldview if you will. But it’s *not* atheism. And not all atheists make the same positions or have the same worldviews.

    What “positions” might be compelling to atheists? Well, what seems to get the MOST attention these days is “science” and “rationalism” and “empiricism” and things like these. These are positions. These are “positive” and “uplifting”. They are constructive. They don’t “tear down.” And, to the people who are proponents of these, they make sense.

    But I think that’s just what gets the most attention. You also have “existentialism” and “absurdism” and “secular humanism” and “buddhism” and whatever else. These are all positive things. “Uplifting” things, if you will.

    In fact, what I would argue…is that even when atheists are providing the reasons why they dismiss god claims (the things you find so “negative”)…these so-called “negative” claims are actually based on a foundation of other positive claims.

  26. Mr Z Says:

    Well spoken Andrew.

  27. Chucky Says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful and well thought out comment. I hope you stick around and offer more!

    > Imagine that that is true also for atheists, but also applies to Christianity.

    Then he should offer those arguments, instead of making this false one.

    > But atheism is not one of these things. From atheism, you don’t learn anything about an individual other than the fact that they do not believe in deities. You have come this far, and you now assume, “Well, atheists are just negative, and they tear things down!”

    Right. So this is a major difference between us. Our reasons for disbelieving, say, Hinduism are quite different. I am logically justified in believing Christianity because I have valid reasons to believe what I do, but it hard for me to see why you would think there’s more reason to believe atheism than Hinduism.

    > What “positions” might be compelling to atheists? Well, what seems to get the MOST attention these days is “science” and “rationalism” and “empiricism” and things like these.

    Hijacking the work of myself (I am a physicist) and others, and equating “science” with “atheism” is quite misleading. The two are obviously not the same, and there’s quite a dishonest history (for example, think of the flat earth myth) of atheists trying to do exactly that.

    > Firstly, the simple route: why do atheists lack beliefs in deities?

    Well this is an interesting question, and one which can be answered empirically. I guess when I look at the studies, it seems to be for mostly social reasons. If for example, if someone is living with their girlfriend outside wedlock, that is highly correlated on whether young people leave the church. Contrast this with studies which show that science degrees, for example, have virtually no impact on a person’s religious belief (although it is true that atheists seem to self-select for science degrees in the first place, and Christians for more caring professions). So yeah. I generally think that the answer, for the overwhelming majority of the population, is social pressures.

    The problem, I guess for Christians, is that atheists *are* out to manipulate those social pressures. In many ways, in the last few years, they have fled the intellectual stage, and are often offering the shallow ridicule and “Why are you delusional?” type questions of the new atheists, rather than reasons for thinking that atheism is actually true. Their actual arguments are flimsy, but that is not important because most people just want to not be made fun of. They do rely on social pressures, and they are experts at manipulating them.

    So today, say, if someone ceases to become a Mormon say, they won’t seriously consider where their beliefs went wrong, and check out orthodox Christianity. They will go straight to atheism, not because there’s particularly good reasons to do that, but because it presents itself as the default belief in our society which won’t give the person a difficult life.

  28. Andrew Says:

    Then he should offer those arguments, instead of making this false one. Personally, I have not seen such an argument.

    From what little you’ve quoted, that does seem to be the argument. I have already stated that I’m not getting how you’re getting from one quote to what you’ve interpreted it as.

    Right. So this is a major difference between us. Our reasons for disbelieving, say, Hinduism are quite different. I am logically justified in believing Christianity because I have valid reasons to believe what I do, but it hard for me to see why you would think there’s more reason to believe atheism than Hinduism.

    Our *particular* reasons for disbelieving hinduism are quite different. But, in generic, we can summarize all the reasons as, “Hinduism does not seem most compelling to us.”

    Naturally, it is hard for you to see why someone would be more justified in being an atheist rather than a Hindu. Because to be “justified in being an atheist” means (as you have alluded, in referring to atheism as “negative”) to find the other choices uncompelling. That is, you are logically justified in believing Christianity because of certain axioms or premises that you accept as true. Because you accept these premises as true, you cannot comprehend someone who does not accept any religious premises.

    However, what I was saying is that even though the atheist does not accept any theistic premises, that does not mean that he only negates and only tears down. Rather, he is logically justified in believing other things because of axioms and premises that he accepts as true.

    Hijacking the work of myself (I am a physicist) and others, and equating “science” with “atheism” is quite misleading. The two are obviously not the same, and there’s quite a dishonest history (for example, think of the flat earth myth) of atheists trying to do exactly that.

    Actually, I didn’t hijack the work of yourself and equate science with atheism. Again, please try to understand what people are saying and try to avoid grossly misinterpreting and reading more into what is being said.

    I am describing positions that can be used, if you can understand an analogy, as legos…building blocks to a logical framework or worldview.

    Let’s take theism. One such “building block” is “revelation.” Believing in revelation can be one reason why someone finds Catholicism compelling (with the papacy), but that doesn’t mean revelation is equivalent to Catholicism, or that revelation equals Catholicism. A Mormon could just as well use revelation to provide a framework for his acceptance of LDS prophets. However, someone without the *positive* and *uplifting* belief in revelation probably wouldn’t make sense of comprehensive positions that tap into revelatory authorities.

    What you failed to note was that I described several positions that can — and have — been used as “building blocks” for both theistic AND nontheistic positions. I have not described positions “equivalent” to atheism or hijacked them. After all, there is Christian existentialism (Kierkegaard) AND non-Christian existentialism (Sartre, etc.,). There is theistic buddhism and nontheistic buddhism.

    So, I will try to explain again, since in taking offense to a comment where none was intended, you didn’t seem to grasp my point. Atheists have several “positive” and “uplifting” beliefs, and this provides a framework for determining “what makes sense,” “what makes no sense,” what “is compelling,” etc., I simply pointed out that — as should be utterly NONcontroversial — many of the so-called “new atheists” distinctly begin with frameworks of science (to the point of scientism), rationalism (to the point of hyperrationalism), etc.,

    Well this is an interesting question, and one which can be answered empirically. I guess when I look at the studies, it seems to be for mostly social reasons. If for example, if someone is living with their girlfriend outside wedlock, that is highly correlated on whether young people leave the church. Contrast this with studies which show that science degrees, for example, have virtually no impact on a person’s religious belief (although it is true that atheists seem to self-select for science degrees in the first place, and Christians for more caring professions). So yeah. I generally think that the answer, for the overwhelming majority of the population, is social pressures.

    While I guess you gave a good try, I think you made a critical misstep. Most importantly, “people leaving the church” DO NOT equal “people who do not believe in god”. This is one of the most important distinctions that I usually find myself having to point out to atheists, but I guess it’s a point that can be missed by anyone. In recent years, we have seen a great influx of “not affiliated,” “religious nones.” The unchurched. But this does not translate to a great influx of atheists…not necessarily. Rather, we see that people are “spiritual but not religious.” We see that people are disgusted with the church, and so they stop going.

    and actually, The Pew Research (and other groups) have researched what alienates people from churches. it’s not just so people can “sin.”

    So, really, I guess I’ll just ask the question again: why do atheists *lack beliefs in deities*? Do not mistake this question for, “Why do people stop going to churches?” or “why are certain churches losing members?” because these questions are NOT what I asked and as a result, there are different pathologies for them anyway.

    From here, I’d like to point something out. Regardless of what the facts are, you already have taken a look at some data. And from the data, you have found some conclusions that seem compelling to you. This informs your beliefs and your worldviews. I have countered, stating how the premises you’ve begun with, the logical steps you’ve taken, and the conclusions you’ve ended with are not compelling or convincing to me. I guess I don’t hope to change your mind today, but if I could change your mind on one thing, it should be to impress upon you that what is *compelling* to one person may not be compelling to another. One person may not begin with your axioms and premises, and as a result, they may not agree with the steps you take in argument, and as a result, it’s only natural that their conclusion differs the same.

    Ultimately, I think you grossly misunderstand why, for example, many ex-mormons do not become traditional Christians (partially because of what I think are your off-mark conclusions about what makes and atheist, but also because of what I suspect is your unfamiliarity with Mormonism.) But that’ll probably have to wait to another day?

    I apologize if I seemed a little ticked off in this message. However, I didn’t anticipate to have so many of my points grossly misinterpreted and unaddressed…

  29. Mr Z Says:

    Chucky, I realize this is your blog, but are you insane?

    You don’t have valid reasons for believing as you do. If you think you do, show them.. now

    Please spend your time trying to make sense…. we would like that

    When you talk about sensibilities, can you yourself stick to them? Use some solid evidence, not bs?

    Atheists are not out to manipulate anything, we simply want proof, do you have any?
    If you have no proof or evidence, can you please just shut up?

  30. Andrew Says:

    that’s pretty rude.

  31. Chucky Says:

    Hi Mr Z,

    How about I start to offer some of the reasons why I think the Biblical account of Jesus is reliable? Obviously it is not proof, but I never claimed to have a proof, simply reasons for what I believe.

    Chucky.

  32. Mr Z Says:

    Andrew, you are correct, my response was rude and lacking the eloquence that is appropriate for public discourse.

    I read Chucky’s reply to your well written, thoughtful, and logical reply and was filled with what can only be termed as primal disgust. Let me explain why I felt this as it explains why I feel and believe as I do today.

    I was born an atheist (we all are) and indoctrinated with the type of fundamental Christianity which is so often in the news these days. I had no choice in the matter; my father was a pentecostal preacher. Our home was filled with Christian literature and books, not just Bibles. My mother was an editor for such literature. I grew up in a family steeped in Christianity. There was no lack of education or learning. My parents did not favor the Bible instead of science, abstinence over education, or any of the oddities that many churches do. They were absolutely good examples.

    I came to leave the church not because of my parents in any way, nor because of the inconsistencies in the Bible. It was clearly (to me) because of the hypocrites in the church. At first I did not lose my ‘faith’ and sought better community in other churches, only to find the hypocrites there too. In fact I found them in every religion. I began to question how it is that good people of faith can be so wrong yet feel they are so right. Those of the Christian faith that accept the Bible as THE WORD of GOD are philosophically at odds with the laws of the USA. The laws of the USA are some very VERY good laws. Our founding fathers were some very intelligent forward thinking men. To ‘believe’ in something that is directly in contradiction to these men and laws became distasteful to me. I sought other ways to find spirituality which was not in conflict with what I personally find morally correct.

    This lead me to become resourceful in my research. There was in Internet at the time. I have traveled the world, visited many holy sites, attended many churches, interviewed many religious people in my search. It wore me down to be constantly confronted with unreasoned dogma, unwavering ‘faith’ in the illogical, and answers which are not answers such as ‘God works in mysterious ways’ and ‘God has a plan for you’ et al.

    No matter what, when presented with sound logic and reasoning, the faithful always chose their faith over reason and truth, faith over logic and morality, faith over anything else. Thinking that maybe Christianity is not the answer I sought them elsewhere only to find there are no answers in faith, just answers which are not answers.

    So, not unlike Jefferson and his Bible I began to simply blot out anything that religion has no answer for and sought to find some truth in what cannot be eliminated this way. All religions seem to have some moral underpinning so I took these commonalities as clues and kept searching. Along the way I came to realize that what I was left with was justice and morality devoid of deities and so I looked for how that could be. Soon enough, scientific evidence began to show that evolution can explain so very much of human life; social evolution, tool evolution, biological evolution, and so on.

    Finally, I came to realize that the God I was taught about is no different than Buddha or Vishnu or any other god. If I do not believe in them, there is no reason I should believe in the God of Abraham. So what is there to believe in?

    There is nothing to believe in. We are meat puppets, no better or worse than any other animal or plant on this planet. By chance and evolution we have magnificent brains and adaptability. We are capable of so very much, and to paraphrase Sagan, we are how the universe understands itself.

    I no longer need a god to explain why things happen, they simply do as a result of a chain of events that I usually have little control over. I can effect that chain often enough and effect some control over my life, but I no longer need to blame god when I get it right, nor pray for an answer when I get it wrong or have no control over it to begin with.

    Back on point – Chucky’s reply to Andrew’s post is dogmatic, dismissive, and blatantly ignoring of the points Andrew made. It is this very attitude that set me on my journey to become an atheist. It is this attitude that makes the church a hypocritical construct that forms a blight on the face of mankind. It is this attitude that corrupts all the good intentions that religion might have otherwise had. It is this attitude that makes religions and the faithful corrosive to society. It makes them unfit as stewards of the public good.

    Chucky, I’d like to hear the reasons that you feel Christ is your answer but first I would like to see you thoughtfully reply to Andrew’s cogent and logical post.

  33. Mr Z Says:

    Replying to myself – Here is an example of why I think Christianity is corrosive to society and why Christians in general are not fit to be stewards of the common good: http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/dr-david-barton—on-obama/blog-180543/

    The thought that all we need is God and guns and our country, founded on God, is never wrong is dogmatic, wrong, and lacking any good morality.

    spellchecker correction: ==There was in Internet at the time.== should have been There was no Internet at the time.

  34. Andrew Says:

    Great story. But out of fairness, I have to point out your biases.

    You start out with your own premises, use your own chain of logic, and that’s why you have the conclusions you do. Firstly, you start, “We are all born atheists and indoctrinated with religion.”

    Well, the first premise (we are all born atheists) is in doubt. Certainly, some people are. However, scientific research also shows that some children nascently attribute things in the world to anthropomorphic causes, and that evolution is less intuitive for children to understand than some kind of creationism. (I agree that this generic kind of theism doesn’t necessarily equal any of the particular religious traditions, but I’m making a point here.)

    This leads to the second premise, implied from the second part of your first claim. When you say you were indoctrinated in Christian fundamentalism (probably with negative connotations), you imply that “indoctrination” is a bad thing. That things that are not readily apparent, or nascent, or inborn, or whatever, are “bad.”

    This is problematic. Obviously, children do not know a lot of stuff when they are born (maybe not tabula rasa, but still). And what things they do intuit can often be incorrect (that’s why it doesn’t matter whether children are born atheists or theists…what people are *born* as does not *by itself* validate the concept. That children attribute natural events to anthropomorphic, greater-than-human sources does not prove that God exists and put such a concept in their hears.)

    “Indoctrination,” as you so call it, will happen. we are products of our culture, our era, etc.,

    In the next part of your story, you make a logical leap that I cannot justify — but which cuts against what *I* was trying to say to Chucky.

    You left the church. (OK)

    why?

    because of…the imperfections of people?

    And then as you went to other churches, you found there were more imperfect people…

    And then…SOMEHOW, you use this to try to argue that the religions were incorrect (e.g., how could people be so wrong yet think they were right?)

    This does not follow! In fact, most religions would easily account for that. Duh, people are imperfect! They have a fallen nature (Christianity), uncontrolled desires (Buddhism), lack of true, deeper knowledge (gnosticism), or any other explanation. And then you have some kind of argument for the greatness of American laws, which are, you believe, contradicted by so many religious people.

    This is further inconclusive. We have at least two parties (the two major parties) that are so sure that they understand the constitution correctly and the other party doesn’t. As you said earlier, “How can people be so wrong but think they are right?” The problem: from what I can tell, you have fallen in the same trap and don’t seem to consider that other people could legitimately believe differently.

    here is the problem, I think. The divide, if you will. You say later on that some people will not listen to “sound logic and reasoning,” instead preferring faith. The problem is this: you don’t know what sound logic is. You may have a construct of valid logic, but since you do not have ultimate answers, you cannot prove your premises. So as a result, your valid chain of logic may or may not be sound.

    But because you are so sure that you are right and others are wrong, you cannot step away from yourself and ask, “Hmm, why is it that these other people believe so fervently? Could it be that I am like they are but with different premises?” As a result, you just insist that others eschew sound logic and reasoning.

    I don’t think that is the case. Of course they will eschew what *you* think is sound logic, because they don’t accept your premises as true. But I think that most people do not purposefully try to create *invalid* logical chains. Rather, they create valid chains of logic and the differences between you and me and them are the different *premises* we take. As a result, you think that they are rejecting reason/logic for faith, when I would say instead that faith simply is a different building block for their worldview that they accept and you reject.

    But this has further implications. Because you won’t consider the premises and logical chains of the religious (because you see “faith” and then jump to the conclusion that there is *no* logic or reason to it whatsoever), you can’t or won’t see the nuance. So you say things like, “There is no difference between the God I was taught and Buddha and Vishnu…” How can I try to disabuse Chucky of notions that people so foolish equate very different things if people will live out the stereotype after all?

    And how can you begin to talk about Chucky’s post being dogmatic or dismissive of points I have made (whether this is the case or not) when you come across as just as dogmatic and dismissive of Chucky’s points?

    It seems pretty apparent to me that it would be useless for Chucky to give the reasons that he feels Christ is the answer, because we ALREADY KNOW that you do not accept the premises, so you will see his chain of logic as unsound at best and invalid at worst, and of course you will dismiss his conclusions.

  35. Andrew Says:

    Sometimes, I feel like it’s pointless to have these kinds of dialogues, because I think the two parties are incapable of seeing eye to eye. I mean, having different beliefs is one thing. The real problem is that most times, we cannot even begin to understand why the other person holds different beliefs, and so in our ignorance, we make terrible stuff up.

    Why are people atheists according to Chucky? I guess because they wanted to sin, cohabitate, fornicate whatever. In the process of developing this answer, Chucky doesn’t make any friends with any atheists, doesn’t understand atheism any more (but I’m not quite sure if he WANTS to, based on his experiences with or stereotypes of it), and he gets a chance to “pat himself on the back” for his beliefs (since, always, with these makeshift explanations and answers, the person’s own beliefs seems to look virtuous and the other person’s beliefs looks vicious.)

    But this isn’t the only side.

    Why are people Christian? Why do people disagree with Obama’s politics. According to Mr. Z, it’s because they are indoctrinated, they eschew logic and reason and “good morality” and the Constitution for faith, and as a result, they are not fit to be stewards of the common good.

    Do you hear yourself?

    And in the process of developing this answer, the same thing happens. Mr. Z doesn’t make any friends with Christians or other theists, doesn’t understand Christianity better (but I am also not quite sure if he wants to, based on experiences with or stereotypes of it), and he too gets a chance to pat himself on the back for having such a “reasonable, logical” position (a veritable virtue to Mr. Z in contrast to the despicable vice the “others” have, according to his comments.)

  36. Mr Z Says:

    This turned out pretty long – sorry.

    ==Great story. But out of fairness, I have to point out your biases.==
    You always do so in an eloquent and gentle way, thank you. If only I were as eloquent and patient as yourself.

    ==Firstly, you start, “We are all born atheists and indoctrinated with religion.”==
    It was not said as a bad thing, simply a statement of the truth of it. The tenets of faith are taught as unquestionable truths, not revealed through tests and evidence to be true. It is ‘indoctrination’ rather than learning, and this is what I judge to be bad. Sure, being told that 2×2=4 might be considered indoctrination, but mathematics can ‘show’ us that it is true. Where we can test knowledge it is learning, where that knowledge is simply defined as truth with no evidence, as untestable and unquestionable truth, it is indoctrination and not learning.

    ==(I agree that this generic kind of theism doesn’t necessarily equal any of the particular religious traditions, but I’m making a point here.)==
    Through evolution, we are born with a sense of social justice and hence a kind of morality, yet we are not born believing in deities. We look to those in authority to teach us as children because we know we don’t understand everything.

    ==it doesn’t matter whether children are born atheists or theists…what people are *born* as does not *by itself* validate the concept. That children attribute natural events to anthropomorphic, greater-than-human sources does not prove that God exists and put such a concept in their hears.)==
    However it is important to understand the state of mind of children and the state in which they are born. When we are told that all humans are born in sin, the implication is that there is something wrong with us, we bear the responsibilities of those who came before us, that our debt to the deity is attached to us at or before birth. It might be fair to say that at birth we are neither bad nor good, but this inbuilt sense of social justice and it’s inherent morality is not learned, or so science seems to show. We exhibit this before the concept of any god can be taught to us. This is important information. Morality does not flow from God.

    ==In the next part of your story, you make a logical leap that I cannot justify — but which cuts against what *I* was trying to say to Chucky. You left the church. (OK) why? because of…the imperfections of people? ….. And then…SOMEHOW, you use this to try to argue that the religions were incorrect (e.g., how could people be so wrong yet think they were right?)==
    It was a long post, an even longer story, I seem to have not put enough detail in. The Christians for whom I speak against the most believe in the Bible as the inerrant word of God yet pretend they don’t agree with parts of it, like the many reasons for the death penalty. However they do believe in the parts that justify their hatred of homosexuals. The doctrines of the Christian Bible are at odds with the laws of the land. There is no way around that. Worse are the interpretations of the Bible – things like ‘the rapture’ which are modern day inventions of interpretation. These religious leaders claim they are right, and many follow them and believe them to be right. I will be the first to tell you that many faithful are good people with no malicious intent, yet they follow and do as they are told to do because they have been taught to fear an invisible deity who will burn and torture them forever if they do not follow the church. Their motives are borne of fear and their attentions focused on those who know what they are afraid of. They believe they are living right, that they believe in the right things, their church and pastor tell them so, but they continue to be wrong. The continue to judge others based on irrational fears. They continue to want to materially affect the lives of others based on irrational fears and the thought that they alone know the right way to live. American laws protect those who cannot protect themselves, those that would be oppressed by the majority. In fact, religion is protected and will continue to be protected even if there are only 1% of the population that are religious. Religions are not so honorable. The Constitution is subject to amending, the Bible is not. There is much more to this, but that kind of sums it up.

    ==The problem: from what I can tell, you have fallen in the same trap and don’t seem to consider that other people could legitimately believe differently.==
    I do not begrudge anyone having or holding what I consider silly beliefs. I get angry when they want to impose those beliefs on others; when they want to oppress others. Politics in the USA cannot be discussed without talking about religion. This might be sad, but it is true. One only has to look at American politics to see how religion is poisoning society. It has already poisoned politics here. Honest discourse on education can no longer be held without discussing creationism and evolution. One is myth, the other science. One is not to be questioned, the other invites testing, questions, and opinion.

    ==here is the problem, I think. The divide, if you will. You say later on that some people will not listen to “sound logic and reasoning,” instead preferring faith. The problem is this: you don’t know what sound logic is. You may have a construct of valid logic, but since you do not have ultimate answers, you cannot prove your premises. So as a result, your valid chain of logic may or may not be sound.==
    If what you are saying is that I don’t know what caused the big bang, or what happens after death, you are right. In fact no one knows these answers, but some claim they do. I draw from my experiences and learning to define my understanding of the truth of life. None of us can truly do anything else. It’s problematic that not enough of us go far enough on the learning part, and rely to heavily on what we are told are unquestionable truths.

    ==But because you are so sure that you are right and others are wrong, you cannot step away from yourself and ask, “Hmm, why is it that these other people believe so fervently? Could it be that I am like they are but with different premises?” As a result, you just insist that others eschew sound logic and reasoning.==
    I do not claim to have all the answers, freely admit that we don’t know all the answers, and posit that we may never know the answers. Life is short in that respect. I tend to be a live and let live person until I feel that I’m being wronged. Religion is poisoning society. I do not think belief in spirituality should be stamped out, nor that it should not be tested and questioned. However I do believe that other’s beliefs should not be forced on myself or others. What is happening in the Texas State Board of Education is arguably unconstitutional, and definitely reprehensible. Atheists are not the only people who think this way. In such a case, it’s not that their beliefs are wrong, but their actions. People cannot help but act on their beliefs. We make decisions based on the best information that we have. When we refuse to accept new information or changes to long held beliefs we will make bad decisions. It is the dogmatic inflexibility of the faithful that causes them to be wrong. Sure, they’ve accepted that the Earth is not flat, that Copernicus was right after all, that the universe is expanding and other irrefutable scientific truths, or at least many of them have. The problem is that for things not so grand or obvious they refuse to budge. It’s not just ‘my’ truth or logic.

    ==As a result, you think that they are rejecting reason/logic for faith, when I would say instead that faith simply is a different building block for their world view that they accept and you reject.==
    That sounds nice, fair, just… but life does not work that way very often. If other’s beliefs had no effect on me, I would not care what they think… that would be their problem. It’s not that I ‘think’ they are rejecting reason/logic, they ARE rejecting it. Remember, I was a full-on holy roller believer! I’m not saying things because I think that is what it is, I was one of them, I do understand how they come to believe as they do. They do have to ignore logic, reason, and science to hold the beliefs that they do, just as I would have to ignore all that I have learned to be a believer again. Fear, often called the strongest of human emotions, is a fantastic motivator and can motivate humans to do insane things. To hold a belief in a creator god, such as deist’s do, does not require that you force your belief on others. The Christian Bible and religion calls for exactly that; forcing the Christian faith on all and sundry. This makes it open to debate. Is there a God? Where is the proof? Why should I believe? Why does a loving God want so many people to die? There are so many questions of the God of Abraham whose answers simply defy logic. For some, faith may well be a positive building block in their world view. I will not argue that it is always bad. The trouble is that too many take it too far and in the wrong directions. When they are questioned for reasons and logic of their beliefs the answers do not make sense. Christians literally have an answer for everything: sometimes the answer is one of the answers that is no answer – God works in mysterious ways or God has a plan for your life etc. These are not answers and I found as a believer I could not answer many questions, that religion didn’t have real answers. Now, some may be happy with the answers that religion offers. They may indeed find this to be all they need in life. That doesn’t make them right, nor does it make them qualified for stewardship of the common good. I do not have a problem with someone coming to a different conclusion about life than me. I have a problem when they want to foist that belief on me through the system of laws. You do not have to believe as I do for us to cooperate in the struggle of life, live in the same neighborhood, enjoy some of the same traditions. But when you want to tell me that I’m wrong, and your views should be codified into law… well, I have a huge issue with that. When our discussions include you ignoring logic and reason the problem gets bigger. Do we need a just and ethical system of laws? Yes. Is the Christian Bible a good place to get those laws? No!

    ==But this has further implications. Because you won’t consider the premises and logical chains of the religious (because you see “faith” and then jump to the conclusion that there is *no* logic or reason to it whatsoever), you can’t or won’t see the nuance. So you say things like, “There is no difference between the God I was taught and Buddha and Vishnu…” How can I try to disabuse Chucky of notions that people so foolish equate very different things if people will live out the stereotype after all?==
    To me, the God of Abraham and other deities have the same place. They are not equal in all respects but for me they have a common facet: they are myths uttered as truth without proof. The Easter bunny and the tooth fairy are not equals, but they are both fairy tales. I came to see the world as a child – without preconceptions. I asked what is out there, what do people believe, why do so many believe in various things, why do they believe them in spite of the knowledge mankind has which is counter to such beliefs. I found many reasons for believing, but none of them were based on logic, reason, or proof. Specifically, followers of the God of Abraham do not use logic, reason, or proof as reasons for believing.

    ==And how can you begin to talk about Chucky’s post being dogmatic or dismissive of points I have made (whether this is the case or not) when you come across as just as dogmatic and dismissive of Chucky’s points?==
    Point taken

    ==It seems pretty apparent to me that it would be useless for Chucky to give the reasons that he feels Christ is the answer, because we ALREADY KNOW that you do not accept the premises, so you will see his chain of logic as unsound at best and invalid at worst, and of course you will dismiss his conclusions.==
    This is not true. If I remain unwilling to hear anyone’s reasons I will miss out on new facts, new information. That would make me, as you suggest, dogmatic and unreasonable. Though I may appear that way often enough, I do not approach life from the position that I am right and nothing can change my mind. I simply want proof and reason to change, evidence that supports a different way of thinking than what I hold now.

    Perhaps I have missed out a reply to a point you made, but I think I’ve covered it all. Yes, I can be an angry person and should be more reserved in my speech. This does not make me wrong, no matter how ill mannered it makes me seem. As for real answers? Sometimes the real answer is that we simply don’t know yet. I’ve seen no evidence that justifies blaming God for everything we do not understand. The gaps in our knowledge of the universe are getting smaller and in many people’s view the reasons for religion are shrinking with them. If you want to believe something I consider silly it’s your business. When you want to shape the laws to fit your beliefs it becomes my business. At that point you need to show proof of why you are right. This has made it a matter of important public discourse. It is not just myself that find Christianity devoid of logic and reason and proof. Now, it is true that just because lots of people believe something does not make it right. It’s when you get down to evidence and proof and argument that a common truth is found. This is generally the scientific method, a method found to be most judicial in finding truth. If Christianity is right, it will win out in the marketplace of ideas, right? So, where is the evidence?

    Hopefully, this made sense.

  37. Mr Z Says:

    Andrew, your point of how this seems futile is well taken, though I don’t seek to find a position where I am able to pat myself on the back. I speak out because of the harm I see religion doing to my life. Were it that religion was harmless folly that had no material affect on my life I would not care enough to speak. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. [Edmund Burke]

    While you might not find that particularly appropriate in a discussion about religious belief, I do. The separation of church and state is necessary. To ensure it remains in tact it seems that the religious must be shown they are not correct, that their morality can not be applied to all, and must not be codified into law. There seem to be few ways to show the faithful that this is the right way to have a just and ethical system of laws. The discussions of such get heated and twisted, without doubt, but they are necessary if we are to live in peace and prosperity. In the USA the ‘believers’ think they are right and see no reason that their beliefs should not be THE law. This is wrong. Even those who are not politically active are guilty as the support those who are, either directly or indirectly. If they don’t speak out against ‘Christians’ who are harmful to society, they support them. Yes, that logic doesn’t sound quite right, but it is true in the way that those Chinese who do not speak out against their government are supporting it.

  38. Chucky Says:

    Hi Michael,

    First up, let me apologise, if I didn’t address your point, or if I was accidentally offering a straw man. I know how frustrating it is when other people do that to me, and I sincerely didn’t intend to do it to to you. So, sorry if I did that.

    > Our *particular* reasons for disbelieving hinduism are quite different. But, in generic, we can summarize all the reasons as, “Hinduism does not seem most compelling to us.”

    I might summarize it differently as “There are reasons to believe in Jesus”. Hinduism, paganism, atheism, or Islam not being compelling is only half the story.

    > That is, you are logically justified in believing Christianity because of certain axioms or premises that you accept as true. Because you accept these premises as true, you cannot comprehend someone who does not accept any religious premises.

    I agree it’s important to realise that we both do have unproven assumptions which we do accept as axiomatically true.

    For me personally though – I didn’t start out believing what I have today. I certainly didn’t start out with “religious” premises. I started out with the opposite set of assumptions, and they continually painted me into a corner when I tried to fit them with the world.

    > Let’s take theism. One such “building block” is “revelation.”

    Yes, it is. And for me a big question was – would the creator of the universe choose to interact with us? I guess for you and I though, we have a much bigger disagreement than how God acts. I should probably say, I’m neither Mormon or Catholic – I’m protestant with a soft spot for the Eastern Orthodox church. I guess I see myself as simply trying to follow Jesus.

    > So, really, I guess I’ll just ask the question again: why do atheists *lack beliefs in deities*?

    I can’t give you the answer except the one which seems clear to me. We live in a society which is essentially atheist in public – religious belief has largely been driven from the public sphere. You almost never see someone praising God on a movie or on TV for example. It is for largely social/cultural reasons. As far as I’ve seen there’s no particularly good reasons for thinking atheism is actually true, but the vast majority of what goes on is simply social pressure.

    Look at what happens here. I am pointing out a simple logical error – an invalid argument. Look at some of the responses. I have one person suggesting that my brain is malfunctioning, another asking if I am “insane”. All this for simply saying, “This atheist argument doesn’t logically follow.”

    You say, rightly, that just because someone doesn’t go to church or profess a religious belief that doesn’t make them an atheist. That’s true. I was simply using that as an empirically measurable effect, of people’s over-riding concern for fitting in with a wider secular society.

    > From here, I’d like to point something out. Regardless of what the facts are, you already have taken a look at some data. And from the data, you have found some conclusions that seem compelling to you.

    Right. What I believe fits well with the data. Of course, while that’s nice, that’s not everything that it takes to compel someone to believe something.

  39. Andrew Says:

    The tenets of faith are taught as unquestionable truths, not revealed through tests and evidence to be true.

    While I think that this ignores the parts of religions that encourage questioning and the struggle with faith (even within a religious institutional veneer that seems to imply that the truths are “unquestionable”), I guess the question I’d ask is: why assume that truths can only come from tests? And are you aware of what you consider to be evidence and how it can differ from what someone else would?

    Not to try to speak for the religious and convince you otherwise…I’m asking these questions only to show that you accept certain things as unquestionable truth too…Not because these things are inherently unquestionable, but because the way you process information doesn’t lend to questioning certain assumptions and premises. I’m trying to make you question them.

    Through evolution, we are born with a sense of social justice and hence a kind of morality, yet we are not born believing in deities.

    You’re not listening. Through childhood psychological development (which we can owe to evolution), most of us also believe in immature teleology, a nascent creationism, and an anthropomorphising of natural events.

    But it shouldn’t matter either way.

    Speaking of which…the evolved morality of children also includes an evolved distrust of outgroups (“them”) as opposed to (“us”). I will be that many ingroups/outgroups are based on social considerations, but this doesn’t mean that children are perfect angels.

    The doctrines of the Christian Bible are at odds with the laws of the land. There is no way around that.

    Ugh. Again, you aren’t even listening. Certainly, you believe that the doctrines of the Christian Bible are at odds with the laws of the land and “there is no way around that,” but haven’t you ever considered that what you hold to be so self-evident and ‘obvious’ is neither self-evident nor obvious? Haven’t you ever considered that you are trapped with your own assumptions and interpretations, and that others are in theirs. I mean, really, there are people who would insist exactly the opposite — that this is a “Christian nation” and that what you propose is against that, and “there’s no way around that.” Neither group gets anywhere.

    yet they follow and do as they are told to do because they have been taught to fear an invisible deity who will burn and torture them forever if they do not follow the church. Their motives are borne of fear and their attentions focused on those who know what they are afraid of.

    Have you EVER considered that someone could be doing as they are told to do because they have experienced great elevation, joy, peace, or beauty from the concept of a deity? Or is everything fear, fire, and brimstone?

    American laws protect those who cannot protect themselves, those that would be oppressed by the majority.

    A good approach to *one* side of the American endeavor…but when you talk about tyranny of the majority, you act like democracy (or rather, a republic) is a shunned or despised form of government. Instead, how can you ignore those who value the tradition of “power to the people” — the masses, as opposed to a few elites in wigs?

    I do not claim to have all the answers, freely admit that we don’t know all the answers, and posit that we may never know the answers.

    Are you serious? Do you not realize that throughout your comment, you have claimed to know the answers to:

    1) the true purpose of American government
    2) what beliefs and suppositions children are born with
    3) what classifies as valid evidence or invalid evidence
    4) why theists believe what they believe

    …and many more.

    I have not directly responded to many of your points, so I apologize for that.

  40. Chucky Says:

    That seems to be for largely American political views, Mr Z. I’m not American – and not particularly right wing.

  41. Andrew Says:

    Not sure who Michael is, but I’ll pretend to be him for a bit :3

    First up, let me apologise, if I didn’t address your point, or if I was accidentally offering a straw man. I know how frustrating it is when other people do that to me, and I sincerely didn’t intend to do it to to you. So, sorry if I did that.

    I can understand why you would interpret certain things in certain ways though, especially since if you’ve talked to certain other people, you might think that you’re hearing an argument you’ve heard before. So, sometimes, it can be a good way to preemptively counter an argument.

    I might summarize it differently as “There are reasons to believe in Jesus”. Hinduism, paganism, atheism, or Islam not being compelling is only half the story.

    I guess what I was trying to get at is…the compellingness is related to the reasons we have. I think that saying “There are reasons to believe” implies “these are reasons I find compelling.” Obviously, someone else (e.g., Mr. Z might not find the reasons as compelling.) I don’t think it is the case that Christianity has reasons to believe in it and other things don’t. Rather, I think it is the case that all things have “reasons,” but these reasons can either be compelling or uncompelling to us.

    For me personally though – I didn’t start out believing what I have today. I certainly didn’t start out with “religious” premises. I started out with the opposite set of assumptions, and they continually painted me into a corner when I tried to fit them with the world.

    This might be getting a little meta, but I would argue that there are STILL assumptions here. For example, starting with the “opposite set of assumptions” continually “painted you into a corner when you tried to fit them into the world.” But I can bet that there are others still who had these sets of assumptions but did not feel painted in a corner when they tried to fit them into the world…or that there are people who have had the assumptions you *now* have but believe that *those* painted them into the corner. So it seems indicative that even being “painted into a corner” is indicative of an assumption. I hope that makes some sense.

    I can’t give you the answer except the one which seems clear to me. We live in a society which is essentially atheist in public – religious belief has largely been driven from the public sphere. You almost never see someone praising God on a movie or on TV for example. It is for largely social/cultural reasons. As far as I’ve seen there’s no particularly good reasons for thinking atheism is actually true, but the vast majority of what goes on is simply social pressure.

    You mentioned later on that you are not American. This provides a lot of insight into this comment, but I also must say that I think the insight isn’t conclusive. After all, in America, where society most certainly *isn’t* atheist in public (despite the calls to secularism, an American politician would basically be crucified if he were not a theist). There is great social pressure *against* being an atheist, especially in places where I’m at (I live in a part of the country generally referred to as the Bible Belt.)

    I think I can buy that many atheism may arise for more cultural reasons outside of America though (as I guess Mr. Z feels Christianity lingers for cultural reasons…and I guess I can see where he’s coming to a point.) However, I still must insist that I do not think that is the only case. Just as I believe Mr. Z misses something when he thinks that the *only* reason why people are Christians is because they have been “indoctrinated” or because they have been taught to fear God, I think that it misses something to say there are no good reasons for being an atheist…

  42. Chucky Says:

    > Why are people atheists according to Chucky? I guess because they wanted to sin, cohabitate, fornicate whatever. In the process of developing this answer, Chucky doesn’t make any friends with any atheists, doesn’t understand atheism any more (but I’m not quite sure if he WANTS to, based on his experiences with or stereotypes of it), and he gets a chance to “pat himself on the back” for his beliefs…

    I am surprised you reacted in this way. I purposefully chose this example not to be offensive. Having defacto relationships is not, generally, seen as a bad thing in our society.

  43. Andrew Says:

    it just seems to me that this kind of reasoning allows you to dismiss atheism as intellectually weak/lightweight, socially convenient hedonism.

    And despite what you say about how your/our society views such relationships, perhaps I can be forgiven for assuming that you take a Christian viewpoint on the sinfulness of fornication, etc.

    So, I’m sorry if you didn’t anticipate how that could be seen as offensive, but I have to stick by my point (especially since, in other comments, you still confess how you don’t see good reason why someone might be or become an atheist.)

  44. Mr Z Says:

    Andrew,

    What am I not hearing? I ask honestly, not sarcastically.

    ==I guess the question I’d ask is: why assume that truths can only come from tests? And are you aware of what you consider to be evidence and how it can differ from what someone else would?==
    Yes, I can see how some would accept different evidence than I would to be convinced of something. I’m considered cynical by those that know me. What seems like evidence is not reliable unless it is repeatable, testable, verifiable. Anecdotal evidence is not reliable no matter how interesting it is. The apple falling from the tree story is anecdotal, further testing verified the effects of gravity – as an example of what evidence is to me. There are ghost stories galore in the world but so far TAPS hasn’t found any verifiable ghosts, just interesting anecdotal stories.

    ==I’m trying to make you question them.==
    I’m trying to listen to what you are saying. Trying to understand.

    ==You’re not listening. Through childhood psychological development (which we can owe to evolution), most of us also believe in immature teleology, a nascent creationism, and an anthropomorphising of natural events.==
    Are you saying this validates religious belief, or that religious belief stems from this type of immature world view?

    ==Speaking of which…the evolved morality of children also includes an evolved distrust of outgroups (“them”) as opposed to (“us”). I will be that many ingroups/outgroups are based on social considerations, but this doesn’t mean that children are perfect angels.==
    Xenophobia has been shown to be useful in earlier societies. Evolution would select those that are successful at surviving and xenophobes were apparently good for the survival of small social groups. It limited disease spread, fortified cooperative behavior and other things. That it is basically instinctual now is not a surprise.

    ==Ugh. Again, you aren’t even listening. Certainly, you believe that the doctrines of the Christian Bible are at odds with the laws of the land and “there is no way around that,” but haven’t you ever considered that what you hold to be so self-evident and ‘obvious’ is neither self-evident nor obvious? Haven’t you ever considered that you are trapped with your own assumptions and interpretations, and that others are in theirs. I mean, really, there are people who would insist exactly the opposite — that this is a “Christian nation” and that what you propose is against that, and “there’s no way around that.” Neither group gets anywhere.==
    What am I not hearing? A nation peopled largely by people claiming to be Christians does not equal Christian nation. There is no evidence that the USA was founded on Christianity. To claim that it was is to ignore the facts. Perhaps you are using this as an example, but I don’t think I understand what you are saying. On examination of the facts, you cannot conclude that the USA is a nation founded on Christianity. The Christian Bible doles out the death penalty for a number of trivial acts, acts which harm no one and are only in contradiction of God’s law: working on Sunday, disobeying your parents etc. It also teaches the marginalization of those who are not Christian, gives the okay for genocide, ownership of slaves, and death penalty for those who do not obey moral law etc. These teachings are contrary to the laws of the USA and most other countries. How is that not self-evident and obvious? I am asking because you have said it twice as well as saying I’m not hearing what you’re saying.

    ==Have you EVER considered that someone could be doing as they are told to do because they have experienced great elevation, joy, peace, or beauty from the concept of a deity? Or is everything fear, fire, and brimstone?==
    I have admitted as much; that for some religious belief or spiritual belief should not be stamped out, and many can derive comfort and goodness from such activity. Not to equate them, but people also derive comfort and goodness from stamp collecting, train spotting, and growing orchids. A persons personal beliefs about gods are not my problem or my concern until they are brought into the public square and the political arena and become concerns of the law makers. When they become something that materially affects my life it becomes a problem, a concern that must be addressed. I don’t think I’ve said that ALL Christians are bad. I wouldn’t say that all Chinese are bad either. Both groups of people need to speak out against those that claim to speak for them or the net effect of their efforts is equal to support of those who speak for them.

    ==A good approach to *one* side of the American endeavor…but when you talk about tyranny of the majority, you act like democracy (or rather, a republic) is a shunned or despised form of government. Instead, how can you ignore those who value the tradition of “power to the people” — the masses, as opposed to a few elites in wigs?==
    Are you suggesting that mob rule is good? I don’t think I understand what your point is here. It seems to be a difference on political issues?

    ==Are you serious? Do you not realize that throughout your comment, you have claimed to know the answers to:
    1) the true purpose of American government
    2) what beliefs and suppositions children are born with
    3) what classifies as valid evidence or invalid evidence
    4) why theists believe what they believe==

    That is certainly not a list of ALL answers. All Americans should study the purpose and intent of the American form of government. To be clueless about it is… shameful. (I guess that’s a good word for it) The beliefs and behaviors of children is a much studied area of science, I’m not just making stuff up. I can get you links etc if you desire. What works as valid evidence is generally to be found in the scientific method. As you know, it works pretty well. Admittedly, I do not know ALL the reasons that theists believe as they do, thus my interest in hearing Chucky’s reasons. I do know why some do. As for others, their actions evidence their motives in many instances, and yet others have stated in surveys and other media their reasons for believing. Pascal’s wager is always fun.

    I would guess that I’m considered both cynical and opinionated, but this does not mean I won’t change my mind if presented with evidence that shows me wrong. Being cynical and opinionated doesn’t make you wrong. I would think that any one of the points in this group of posts could be expanded to long discussions. Now that we’ve talked about what I’ve not done right, would you perhaps share how your views differ from mine by way of explaining them with a bit more detail?

  45. Mr Z Says:

    Yes, that example is particularly American. There are other examples going back through history that are just as scary.

  46. Mr Z Says:

    That certainly explains your views about religion in the public sphere. In the USA religion is very public. While you might feel that the views in that link are of no import to you, you should. Those are the people most likely to want to bring you ‘democracy’ whether you want it or not. Like it or not (I’m not fond of it) the USA has a large impact on the rest of the world and right now it can easily be argued that there are a bunch of less than critical thinking people here who want to change the world, not just their own country. It can also be argued that most of those with wild ideas and dangerous notions claim to be Christian. I have real reasons to worry what is going on here, and by reasons stated, so do you.

  47. Andrew Says:

    re Mr. Z:

    What am I not hearing?

    There will be a really good point in this comment where I will show you a deliberate point where you completely missed what I was saying and jumped to a different conclusion.

    Anecdotal evidence is not reliable no matter how interesting it is.

    But see, that’s what YOU believe. That’s because you have a particular belief about what counts as knowledge, what counts as truth, and as a result, you have particular beliefs about what counts as “reliable evidence.” So you categorically reject a kind of evidence off hand.

    Are you saying this validates religious belief, or that religious belief stems from this type of immature world view?

    THIS IS HOW I KNOW YOU DIDN’T LISTEN TO WHAT I HAD ORIGINALLY SAID!

    I’ll copy and paste:

    Well, the first premise (we are all born atheists) is in doubt. Certainly, some people are. However, scientific research also shows that some children nascently attribute things in the world to anthropomorphic causes, and that evolution is less intuitive for children to understand than some kind of creationism. (I agree that this generic kind of theism doesn’t necessarily equal any of the particular religious traditions, but I’m making a point here.)

    This leads to the second premise, implied from the second part of your first claim. When you say you were indoctrinated in Christian fundamentalism (probably with negative connotations), you imply that “indoctrination” is a bad thing. That things that are not readily apparent, or nascent, or inborn, or whatever, are “bad.”

    This is problematic. Obviously, children do not know a lot of stuff when they are born (maybe not tabula rasa, but still). And what things they do intuit can often be incorrect (that’s why it doesn’t matter whether children are born atheists or theists…what people are *born* as does not *by itself* validate the concept. That children attribute natural events to anthropomorphic, greater-than-human sources does not prove that God exists and put such a concept in their hears.)

    “Indoctrination,” as you so call it, will happen. we are products of our culture, our era, etc.,

    When you first responded to this, you completely ignored the point I had raised about research showing that some children have nascent beliefs in supernatural causes for natural events. So you continued to say what you had already said: “Children aren’t born believing in god.”

    Now it seems you caught what I had said, but you missed the second part of what I was saying.

    It doesn’t matter whether children are born atheists or born theists. It is fallacious to assume that just because someone is born with a belief, that that necessarily makes that belief true. So, NO, I am not saying that validates religious belief. The fact that some children do not anthropomorphise causes and do not believe in god does not validate atheism either.

    And to the final claim, I’d have to say that no, religious views do not just stem from this immature worldview. Rather, I think that many religious people have experiences with religious concepts that bring peace and joy into their life. Their religions “make sense” with the way they see the world — but you can’t see that because you categorically dismiss their experiences as unscientific and anecdotal.

    Xenophobia has been shown to be useful in earlier societies. Evolution would select those that are successful at surviving and xenophobes were apparently good for the survival of small social groups. It limited disease spread, fortified cooperative behavior and other things. That it is basically instinctual now is not a surprise.

    But it’s a point that shows that what we are born with isn’t necessarily the best. So what have we done? We have taught. We have, to use your term, *indoctrinated* people because we recognize that we aren’t born with all the values that our cultures or societies deem as valuable.

    You simply fail to realize that it’s not only indoctrination when it’s religious. A push for antitheism would be just as much indoctrination. A push to reject everything but science and scientific evidence would be indoctrination. And so on and so forth.

    A nation peopled largely by people claiming to be Christians does not equal Christian nation. There is no evidence that the USA was founded on Christianity. To claim that it was is to ignore the facts.

    Are you KIDDING me? Are you HEARING yourself?

    I guess I’ll just have to be devil’s advocate. To use your argument exactly.

    “A nation peopled largely by people claiming to be Christians exactly equals a Christian nation. There is no evidence that the USA was NOT founded on Christianity. To claim that it was not is to ignore the facts.”

    ^so there. I can do exactly the same thing as you: take a selective understanding of historical fact, ignore the rest, and then say that people who disagree with me are “ignoring the facts.” I can be just as dogmatic and unwilling to accept any evidence of the contrary because I’m so certain of my opinion.

    I mean, seriously.

    I will continue.

    Perhaps you are using this as an example, but I don’t think I understand what you are saying. On examination of the facts, you cannot conclude that the USA is not a nation founded on Christianity. The original colonies came here to establish religious safe havens. They moved to escape religious persecution. They most certainly marginalized those who did not fit their religious views (heck, that’s why Rhode Island was formed in the first place — Roger Williams was excommunicated from the Plymouth pilgrims in Massachusetts.) The colonies certainly would not have been so supportive of non-Christians, but it certainly would have been understood that most of the colonies were originally simply various religious groups’ settlements in the new world. These Protestant work ethic is embedded within the United States economy, while the Calvinist view of providence has bolstered America’s appreciation of capitalism. How is that not self-evident and obvious?

    ^That is just part of what I could say. Obviously, there are plenty of people who could make a stronger case out of their convictions. And you know why they can do that? Because the evidence DOESN’T go overwhelmingly one way or another! But you ignore that. You think the answer is obvious and anyone who can’t see that is ignorant of the facts. (But what you fail to consider — even for a moment — is whether you may be ignorant of some facts.) I mean in your argument, you use the Bible’s support of slavery as an argument that it CONTRADICTS American laws?

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME? DO YOU REALIZE HOW LONG SLAVERY WAS LEGAL IN AMERICA?

    Not only that, but many of your summations of Christian values utterly ignore the New Testament.

    I have admitted as much; that for some religious belief or spiritual belief should not be stamped out, and many can derive comfort and goodness from such activity. Not to equate them, but people also derive comfort and goodness from stamp collecting, train spotting, and growing orchids.

    Good thing you didn’t equate them, because that would be another gross misstep. I can certainly assure you that stamp collecting never inspired someone to create art like the Sistine Chapel itself (architecture), or the various paintings within. I can certainly assure you that no one was ever so inspired from train spotting to sculpt something of the level of the Pieta. Growing orchids never led to a work of musical beauty as the Miserere Allegri.

    You continue to speak of Christians in the public sphere as if it’s certain and understood that Christians are utterly no good in the public sphere. But that’s what you believe. Can’t you understand that looking right back at you are plenty of Christians who are offended and enraged by secularists who hope to change the way things run? Can’t you understand that they believe they are just as right and you are just as wrong and foolish as you believe about them? Don’t you ever think about that?

    Are you suggesting that mob rule is good? I don’t think I understand what your point is here. It seems to be a difference on political issues?

    IT SEEMS TO BE A DIFFERENCE ON POLITICAL ISSUES! Yes! But let’s take it further, because it will do no good for you to recognize a difference on political issues if you continue to insist that people who disagree with you are “ignoring the facts” or “ignoring logic and reason” or who won’t “use evidence.”

    Not only is there a difference of opinion, but there is a deep difference in premises which impacts the ways people come to conclusion. You assume that scientifically verifiable, repeatable evidence is the only valid evidence, and thus throw out all other kinds and say people who use other kinds of evidence must be dangerous. But you have never once questioned your first premise. Why is scientific evidence the only valid evidence? Why would someone believe some other kind of evidence is valid? Could it be that they have a genuine difference of beliefs?

    All Americans should study the purpose and intent of the American form of government. To be clueless about it is… shameful.

    Ugh. Now, not only do you insist that you know the true purpose and intent of the American government, but you state that people who disagree with you must be “clueless about it.” As if study of the purpose and intent of the American government will lead one right answer.

    I don’t know how to disabuse you of your unexamined ethnocentrism…but that isn’t the case. Sure, there are clueless people (on all sides), but there are also people who have studied law and government and politics far longer than you and I have and yet…guess what! They can come to very different conclusions!

    The beliefs and behaviors of children is a much studied area of science, I’m not just making stuff up. I can get you links etc if you desire.

    Me too! I can get you links too!

    I would guess that I’m considered both cynical and opinionated, but this does not mean I won’t change my mind if presented with evidence that shows me wrong.

    But if you only accept a certain kind of evidence as valid, then you will dogmatically be tied to certain conclusions. You say you will gladly change your mind if presented with evidence. But you’ve already set your minds about what evidence you would even think about considering. This is but one of your many (obvious) biases. But you haven’t even examined or considered it!

    Now that we’ve talked about what I’ve not done right, would you perhaps share how your views differ from mine by way of explaining them with a bit more detail?

    To put it simply, I believe that many people generally have good reasons for what they believe. However, I believe that what is a “good reason” is contextual and often subjective — it depends on the logical framework that a person uses. The problem is that I think many people are ignorant of the framework they are using…so they fail to understand that 1) their is ALWAYS a framework, in the same way a photograph ALWAYS is taken through a lens, 2) their framework isn’t objective, no matter how natural, self-evident, and apparent it may seem, 3) framework are routed in self-referential vocabularies, premises, assumptions, presumptions, and 4) other people may believe in other frameworks for genuine and authentic reasons because they have different vocabularies, premises, assumptions and presumptions.

    I think that much like when people speak two physically foreign languages, there won’t be communication if people are speaking two different logical framework languages unless the people in the discussion will take the time to learn the other language and see where the other person is coming from. This doesn’t mean that we have to all agree with each other, but at the very least, we owe it to the other person to at least disagree with what they actually believe than disagree with a cheap strawman or stereotype.

  48. Mr Z Says:

    Andrew, I said anecdotal evidence is not reliable, not that it is false. Anecdotal evidence alone is not proof of anything. It’s not simply what I believe. This is true. Here is a link where such is discussed: http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2010/05/i-feel-it-in-my-heart.html – Whether you like or agree with this blogger or not, the point is made. Anecdotal evidence alone is unreliable.

    I did explain that indoctrination and learning are different things in my view and why I hold that view. Arguing about it doesn’t change it. Indoctrination, as a style of learning, is simply rote memorization of ‘truths’ without evidence or learning. I did not mean that things that are not readily apparent or inborn etc. are bad. You can tell a child don’t touch the stove… but until they *LEARN* that hot things burn you and cause pain, simple indoctrination is practically useless.

    ==When you first responded to this, you completely ignored the point I had raised about research showing that some children have nascent beliefs in supernatural causes for natural events. So you continued to say what you had already said: “Children aren’t born believing in god.”==
    I’m interested in links to any research on this topic. Do you have any? I have not seen such as yet. The way that children think before they have had any indoctrination is of great interest to me.

    ==It doesn’t matter whether children are born atheists or born theists. It is fallacious to assume that just because someone is born with a belief, that that necessarily makes that belief true. So, NO, I am not saying that validates religious belief. The fact that some children do not anthropomorphise causes and do not believe in god does not validate atheism either.==
    I did not say that because I think it validates the atheist perspective. I said it because children do not believe in deities until they are taught to, though you say there is research that shows this to possibly be wrong.

    ==And to the final claim, I’d have to say that no, religious views do not just stem from this immature worldview. Rather, I think that many religious people have experiences with religious concepts that bring peace and joy into their life. Their religions “make sense” with the way they see the world — but you can’t see that because you categorically dismiss their experiences as unscientific and anecdotal.==
    I do not begrudge them believing as they want… until it impinges on my life materially. You seem particularly bent on stressing that “we are all right in our own way” rather than taking a stance. I suppose that undecided is a stance. At one extreme your view here would be that children who see the world wrong are right because in ‘their view’ it’s correct. At least that is what it sounds like you are saying.

    ==But it’s a point that shows that what we are born with isn’t necessarily the best. So what have we done? We have taught. We have, to use your term, *indoctrinated* people because we recognize that we aren’t born with all the values that our cultures or societies deem as valuable.==
    Are you still harping on the use of the word indoctrination? The difference between indoctrination and learning is vastly important. In the sense: 2 : to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle – Religious learning is largely simple indoctrination, not learning. Science allows us to test theories and conclusions, to retest and verify the conclusion. Religion does not. I will change that statement when you can show me God doing miracles or some such rather than simply tell me they happened without proof or evidence.

    ==You simply fail to realize that it’s not only indoctrination when it’s religious. A push for antitheism would be just as much indoctrination. A push to reject everything but science and scientific evidence would be indoctrination. And so on and so forth.==
    As an atheist, I don’t push for rejection of all spiritual thought. We don’t know what happens after death, nor what happened before the big bang. What I do know is that religions do not offer any evidence to substantiate their claims of such knowledge. There is no credible reason that I should believe in any deity. If you want to, fine, just don’t expect me to be happy with you if you want to modify the laws to suit your unsubstantiated belief system.

    I’m going to skip some of this because arguing over some things is silly. The USA is not a nation founded on Christianity. The Constitution does not even mention God. The establishment clause protects religious activity, and opposes any support of any religion by government. The Treaty of Tripoli clearly states that the country is not founded on Christianity, and further, this indicates the intents of those founding fathers. You can argue all you wish, it won’t change the facts. Historically, yes, several of the colonies were founded because of religious disputes. The original pilgrims left Europe for a simple reason – they were so radical that basically the known world would not tolerate them.

    ==Not only that, but many of your summations of Christian values utterly ignore the New Testament.==
    I do not disagree with much of the NT Christian philosophy, never have. Christians don’t stick to just the new testament. If they did there would be much less trouble. Jefferson edited his Bible to make it acceptable to himself. I don’t think that is a bad idea. The trouble is that Christianity doesn’t do that, the whole thing is THE word of God. As such, it is inflexible and directly counter to society today.

    ==Good thing you didn’t equate them, because that would be another gross misstep. I can certainly assure you that stamp collecting never inspired someone to create art like the Sistine Chapel itself (architecture), or the various paintings within. I can certainly assure you that no one was ever so inspired from train spotting to sculpt something of the level of the Pieta. Growing orchids never led to a work of musical beauty as the Miserere Allegri.==
    I’m starting to lose the plot here. Religion and God are not required for inspiration, not required for human accomplishment, not required for life. The human race would not be without inspiration, great architecture/painting/music etc. without religion. It’s silly to imply that religion is required. I don’t think you actually are, but even trying to justify religion because it has inspired good things is a weak argument. Also, you don’t know these activities didn’t inspire great things and I don’t know of any examples either, but that is not to say they couldn’t.

    ==You continue to speak of Christians in the public sphere as if it’s certain and understood that Christians are utterly no good in the public sphere. ==
    Show me why this is not generally true?

    ==But that’s what you believe. Can’t you understand that looking right back at you are plenty of Christians who are offended and enraged by secularists who hope to change the way things run? Can’t you understand that they believe they are just as right and you are just as wrong and foolish as you believe about them? Don’t you ever think about that?==
    Short answer – no. It would be a waste of time mostly. Long answer – I don’t think of it in those terms. Remember, I was not always an atheist. I believed in God, thought atheist were wrong, horribly wrong. No, they are not right. If I don’t have an opinion, do not take a stance on the issue I do a disservice to myself and my country. I am not wrong to have an opinion. Everybody is not right, some people are wrong. Life is like that. The vast great majority of religious people believe that most of the rest of the religious people are wrong. If everyone is right, what is God? Impassioned pleas to consider both sides politely, and see them as right in their own way is not effective, is not productive, is not in the interests of the common good. Those Christians you argue for are inflexible, offer no evidence, and do not compromise. This is true of most all religions. The common good is not in their interest. It is not profitable to consider them right in their own way – they are still wrong for the common good. A person’s personal philosophy is their own until they bring it into public and try to modify the laws to suit their beliefs. At that point it’s up for debate and argument. Without evidence and proof it’s just anecdotal. Historically, theocracies are terrible with human rights and generally terrible with many other important social issues. For them to have and hold their own personal philosophy is great, it’s none of my business until it becomes a public matter. Without substantiation an argument or idea is thrown out, or should be. This is how science works. How long did it take for the USA to generally decide that fast food was bad? It was substantive scientific evidence that showed it to be so, not anecdotal evidence.

    ==Not only is there a difference of opinion, but there is a deep difference in premises which impacts the ways people come to conclusion. You assume that scientifically verifiable, repeatable evidence is the only valid evidence, and thus throw out all other kinds and say people who use other kinds of evidence must be dangerous. But you have never once questioned your first premise. Why is scientific evidence the only valid evidence? Why would someone believe some other kind of evidence is valid? Could it be that they have a genuine difference of beliefs?==
    Lets get some cards on the table here. What evidence are you saying that I will ignore because it is not scientific? Be specific.

    ==Ugh. Now, not only do you insist that you know the true purpose and intent of the American government, but you state that people who disagree with you must be “clueless about it.” As if study of the purpose and intent of the American government will lead one right answer.==
    I never claimed that those who disagree with me are clueless – that’s just you misleading the argument.

    ==I don’t know how to disabuse you of your unexamined ethnocentrism…but that isn’t the case. Sure, there are clueless people (on all sides), but there are also people who have studied law and government and politics far longer than you and I have and yet…guess what! They can come to very different conclusions!==
    Explain yourself here please. Which learned persons believe that the government of USA is founded on Christianity? That someone has studied something does not make them right in their conclusions, as you so willingly point out in regard to my opinion. So lets see who these people are and why they have come to the conclusions you claim.

    ==But if you only accept a certain kind of evidence as valid, then you will dogmatically be tied to certain conclusions. You say you will gladly change your mind if presented with evidence. But you’ve already set your minds about what evidence you would even think about considering. This is but one of your many (obvious) biases. But you haven’t even examined or considered it!==
    Okay, I disagree with your certainty that I am dogmatically tied to certain conclusions, so what evidence do you have to offer that contradicts my conclusions. What evidence would you offer to change my point of view?

    ==To put it simply, I believe that many people generally have good reasons for what they believe. However, I believe that what is a “good reason” is contextual and often subjective — it depends on the logical framework that a person uses. The problem is that I think many people are ignorant of the framework they are using…so they fail to understand that 1) their is ALWAYS a framework, in the same way a photograph ALWAYS is taken through a lens, 2) their framework isn’t objective, no matter how natural, self-evident, and apparent it may seem, 3) framework are routed in self-referential vocabularies, premises, assumptions, presumptions, and 4) other people may believe in other frameworks for genuine and authentic reasons because they have different vocabularies, premises, assumptions and presumptions.

    I think that much like when people speak two physically foreign languages, there won’t be communication if people are speaking two different logical framework languages unless the people in the discussion will take the time to learn the other language and see where the other person is coming from. This doesn’t mean that we have to all agree with each other, but at the very least, we owe it to the other person to at least disagree with what they actually believe than disagree with a cheap strawman or stereotype.==

    That’s all nice and good and philosophical, and I see nothing inherently wrong with it. These two paragraphs would offer much to discuss if there were a context or some content other than references in it. You haven’t stated anything regarding religion, God, or atheism etc. So what DO YOU believe?

  49. Andrew Says:

    So that my comment doesn’t get mistaken for spam, I’ll change a part of the links. Change the “xx” to “tt”.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/3512686/Children-are-born-believers-in-God-academic-claims.html

    or

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article6823229.ece

    I guess you won’t be able to read this next article unless you can find a subscription, but this one covers the predisposition to believe in a persistent mind (e.g., soul, afterlife): http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=never-say-die

    ^but actually, what I like most about that last one (even though, I guess you only will see an abstract from that link) is that the author discuss how such findings don’t necessarily make an afterlife valid. In particular, the persistence of this kind of belief can be summed to an evolutionary kink relating to consciousness.

    Indoctrination, as a style of learning, is simply rote memorization of ‘truths’ without evidence or learning.

    Summary: “Indoctrination is learning without learning.” OK,definitely no bias there. Definitely clear as day there.

    Getting to Greta’s claim and yours about the unreliability of anecdotal evidence…still, you don’t seem to be getting that you’re basing this all on a premise. It’s really clear from Greta’s article. You’re trying to go for a standard of “objectivity” that is divorced from people. While I personally agree with her as far as objectivity goes, I understand that for a believer, belief can easily be more relational, participative, and “lived.” In this case, nothing you say deflect their actual experiences.

    (Interestingly enough, Greta makes a point that I was trying to make with regard to children believing in supernatural causes…the human mind, imperfect as it is, is known to do things like this.)

    You seem particularly bent on stressing that “we are all right in our own way” rather than taking a stance

    Don’t confuse this with me not having a stance, or of having a stance “we are right in our own way, therefore let’s sing kumbaya in a circle and hold hands.” But I suspect you don’t grasp the profundity of what you have said: “We are all right in our own way.”

    Note that last part: in our own way. You have your own way and it informs and defines the rest of your argument. But instead of recognizing that others have their own way — and you MUST get inside this own way to establish legitimacy — you denounce every other way and try to bludgeon through with your own way (which is, of course, considered wrong by others…who do not buy your way). As a result, you do not convince anyone of anything. This is about persuasiveness. This is about conversational effectiveness.

    The difference between indoctrination and learning is vastly important. In the sense: 2 : to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle – Religious learning is largely simple indoctrination, not learning.

    In this case, the “imbuing” of an opinion, point of view, or principle that makes a fetish from the scientific method to the denunciation of everything else most certainly is indoctrination as well. My goal isn’t to try to prove God or to have God showing miracles, because I don’t believe in god and don’t believe in miracles. But I understand well enough that even if there were a miracle, you wouldn’t accept it unless it were stripped of its miraculousness and could be conformed with the scientifically mundane.

    The Constitution does not even mention God.
    Nevertheless, another important document seems to mention that all men are endowed by their Creator. Now seriously, the Declaration signatories weren’t referring to evolution there…How did the treaty that ended the Revolutionary War [one of many Treaties of Paris] begin? I’ll jog your memory:

    in the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity

    The establishment clause protects religious activity. Yes, that’s right. Religious activity. Why? Because the people came to the country to *practice their religions*. I agree that the Treaty of Tripoli states that the country is not a Christian nation, but I think all of the evidence taken together supports *my* point. There is evidence on both sides…it is not the case that one side is obvious and that people who disagree are “ignorant” of the facts. To say this is to egregiously cherrypick what data you look at.

    As you say, “You can argue all you want; it won’t change facts.”

    I do not disagree with much of the NT Christian philosophy, never have. Christians don’t stick to just the new testament.

    That’s because you don’t even understand Christianity. Christ *fulfilled* the law; he did not throw it out wholesale. It shouldn’t be a surprise then that Christians have both the OT and the NT, and that interpretations of each can be flexible.

    Religion and God are not required for inspiration, not required for human accomplishment, not required for life.

    And I’m not saying that they are required. However, religion and god have a track record for each of these things. As you put it, “You can argue all you want; it doesn’t change the facts.” In fact, some people would take the inspiration that they continue to receive from these things as a good reason to continue living according to their religion.

    You would probably say that, because they are following unscientific anecdote, they are dangerous and should be kept out of the public sphere.

    Show me why this is not generally true?

    It would be impossible as long as you are firmly seated in your worldview. But you can’t (or won’t) see outside of yourself.

    Short answer – no. It would be a waste of time mostly

    I guess this answers the above. So you *won’t* see outside of yourself. Because it “would be a waste of time mostly”.

    Those Christians you argue for are inflexible, offer no evidence, and do not compromise. This is true of most all religions.

    Ironically, the reason why I take forays like this is because I know plenty of Christians (and indeed, people of other religions) who are much more flexible, much more nuanced in belief and act, than you are. Fortunately, I know (and try to be) an atheist much more flexible, much more nuanced in belief and act, than you are. That is why I try to make my points both to you and to Chucky, even though I feel it’s not very effective.

    Lets get some cards on the table here. What evidence are you saying that I will ignore because it is not scientific? Be specific.

    Do you not read your own posts?

    Anecdotal evidence is unreliable.
    You even posted a great article showing why you discount arguments from feelings/emotions.
    You discount inspiration/fulfillment.
    You ignore contradicting historical data or disagreeing political interpretation.

    These are just a few things from this conversation alone.

    I never claimed that those who disagree with me are clueless – that’s just you misleading the argument.

    Then what is “All Americans should study the purpose and intent of the American form of government. To be clueless about it is… shameful.” supposed to mean. Keep in mind that you only wrote that after responding to a comment that I wrote in response to this:

    Those of the Christian faith that accept the Bible as THE WORD of GOD are philosophically at odds with the laws of the USA. The laws of the USA are some very VERY good laws. Our founding fathers were some very intelligent forward thinking men. To ‘believe’ in something that is directly in contradiction to these men and laws became distasteful to me.”

    and

    “There is no evidence that the USA was founded on Christianity. To claim that it was is to ignore the facts.”

    In other words, you have an opinion about the Founding Fathers’ intentions with the government, political thoughts, etc., You have repeatedly asserted that if you disagree with this (as you seem to think Christians do), then you “ignore the facts.”

    If Christians “ignore the facts” when they assert what they do about American government, then aren’t you saying they are “clueless”?

    Explain yourself here please. Which learned persons believe that the government of USA is founded on Christianity? That someone has studied something does not make them right in their conclusions, as you so willingly point out in regard to my opinion. So lets see who these people are and why they have come to the conclusions you claim.

    are…you…kidding? Are you not aware of ANY of the conservative think tanks? Any of the major thinkers of the Republican party?

    Of course, that there are such think tanks doesn’t mean that they are correct. But I am at a loss at how you cannot EVEN be aware of the existence of these think tanks. I have even played devil’s advocate with just a few of their ideas (and it seems like you have been unfamiliar with them). I am really baffled.

    Okay, I disagree with your certainty that I am dogmatically tied to certain conclusions, so what evidence do you have to offer that contradicts my conclusions. What evidence would you offer to change my point of view?

    If you look through this entire discussion, I have raised contradicting evidence on many of your points. You have suggested, ‘There is NO evidence which suggests that America was founded upon Christianity.’ Even in your request for evidence, you are dogmatically tied to a belief in what kind of evidence counts (anecdotal evidence doesn’t count. most kinds of subjective evidences don’t count. So you continue to say that there is “no credible reason,” for example, to believe in any deity. Well, how can there be, when you definition of “credible reasons” are only scientifically repeatable ones?)

    You haven’t stated anything regarding religion, God, or atheism etc. So what DO YOU believe?

    I do not believe in gods. I believe, however, that people must seek joy and peace. They must seek authenticity — an honesty with themselves. I recognize that such authenticity is tied to the frameworks that one has…and that as a result, what one person should seek is often different than what another person should seek. If a person finds peace from being a Christian, he should wholeheartedly be Christian. However, I think that if a person does not find peace from that, then he shouldn’t try to “force” it, as such an inauthentic existence will only make him miserable.

  50. Mr Z Says:

    Andrew, forgive the delay, it is getting late and I need more time to digest what you have written before replying. Thank you.

  51. Chucky Says:

    Fixed the links for you.

  52. Mr Z Says:

    Thanks for the links. Comments on the telegraph link are telling. The article itself is commentary on what doesn’t look like great science to begin with. The Times commentary seems to be based on more science. In both cases they use religion as controversy in the story. As an animal who is both predator and prey humans need to process information about the world around them to satisfy the needs of both positions. As such it is posited that cause and effect are calculated for all items in our sphere of interest at any one moment. Along the evolutionary way we learned that real answers are not necessary for all things in these calculations in order to accomplish the goals, and in such cases imaginary or supposed answers function as place holders. An example is ‘why are we here’ with the supposed or imaginary answer being ‘god put us here’ works well enough for those focused on the task of day to day living. It fails when your sphere of interest locates on the question of why are we here. The function of these calculations or cause and effect questions is survival. There are quite a few studies on primal or instinctual functions in humans. The studies that show specific brain activity for spiritual experience go further than the others to show such experience as an artifact of brain activity. The one that induces transcendent experience using magnetic fields is particularly interesting. All of this adds fuel to the fire of thought that transcendent experience can be experienced by anyone, and it is that ‘framework’ that you speak of which causes some to call this God rather than something more ‘mundane’ and realistic.

    ==Summary: “Indoctrination is learning without learning.” OK,definitely no bias there. Definitely clear as day there.==
    Really? You wish to argue over the use of a word after discussion of how I used it and why?

    ==While I personally agree with her as far as objectivity goes, I understand that for a believer, belief can easily be more relational, participative, and “lived.” In this case, nothing you say deflect their actual experiences.==
    Please see the first paragraph of this reply. No one doubts they had an experience, only the interpretation of that experience.

    ==(Interestingly enough, Greta makes a point that I was trying to make with regard to children believing in supernatural causes…the human mind, imperfect as it is, is known to do things like this.)==
    This is exactly why the interpretations of transcendent experiences are unreliable as evidence of anything.

    ==Note that last part: in our own way. You have your own way and it informs and defines the rest of your argument. But instead of recognizing that others have their own way — and you MUST get inside this own way to establish legitimacy — you denounce every other way and try to bludgeon through with your own way (which is, of course, considered wrong by others…who do not buy your way). As a result, you do not convince anyone of anything. This is about persuasiveness. This is about conversational effectiveness.==
    I have to tell you, with $5 and a philosophy you can get a cup of coffee at Starbucks. You are stressing the need to be effective at persuasion and conversational effectiveness, but from my point of view you’re not managing either with great effect. I think I see what you’re trying to say, but it’s somewhat convoluted: To argue persuasively with a believer the arguer needs to argue from within the framework of the believer. Is that right?

    ==In this case, the “imbuing” of an opinion, point of view, or principle that makes a fetish from the scientific method to the denunciation of everything else most certainly is indoctrination as well. My goal isn’t to try to prove God or to have God showing miracles, because I don’t believe in god and don’t believe in miracles. ==
    You seem to believe that the scientific method is not the only acceptable method by which to judge things. What other methods are you suggesting here?

    ==But I understand well enough that even if there were a miracle, you wouldn’t accept it unless it were stripped of its miraculousness and could be conformed with the scientifically mundane.==
    Here you presume to know what I would do. You might guess at what I would do, but you do not know. If a miracle does not perform an action in contradiction to the natural laws it is not a miracle. If it is not tested, how can it be claimed a miracle? Do you really think magicians saw their assistants in half? Do you suggest that magic should simply be accepted for what it is proclaimed to be? Looking a gift horse in the mouth may be thought rude, but miracles are not gifts. As stated above, investigating claims of the miraculous and things that appear to be miraculous is a built-in tendency for humans.

    ==And I’m not saying that they are required. However, religion and god have a track record for each of these things. As you put it, “You can argue all you want; it doesn’t change the facts.” In fact, some people would take the inspiration that they continue to receive from these things as a good reason to continue living according to their religion.==
    There’s a rub. The track record for religion and God is littered with genocide, blood sacrifice, intolerance, and all manner of everything that good humans try not to be. I won’t argue that no person finds inspiration from religion or God. I will argue that this does not justify inserting religious doctrine into the law.

    ==Show me why this is not generally true?
    It would be impossible as long as you are firmly seated in your worldview. But you can’t (or won’t) see outside of yourself.==
    Well, that’s a useful answer. Thanks for that… you’re willing to disagree with me, tell me I’m wrong, but then won’t substantiate your objections? What gives? Do you feel you are not required? Is it not worth your time? Do you not have substantive support for your position?

    ==Short answer – no. It would be a waste of time mostly
    I guess this answers the above. So you *won’t* see outside of yourself. Because it “would be a waste of time mostly”.==
    You asked a specific question about what I think. I answered. You cherry pick from the answer and criticize me. At times it appears that you argue simply to argue. It appears that you enjoy being the troll.

    ==Ironically, the reason why I take forays like this is because I know plenty of Christians (and indeed, people of other religions) who are much more flexible, much more nuanced in belief and act, than you are. Fortunately, I know (and try to be) an atheist much more flexible, much more nuanced in belief and act, than you are. That is why I try to make my points both to you and to Chucky, even though I feel it’s not very effective.==
    So far as I can see, your point seems to be in telling others how to argue more effectively, or how they did it wrong but could be more effective in your opinion. Not much else.

    ==Do you not read your own posts?
    Anecdotal evidence is unreliable.
    You even posted a great article showing why you discount arguments from feelings/emotions.
    You discount inspiration/fulfillment.
    You ignore contradicting historical data or disagreeing political interpretation.
    These are just a few things from this conversation alone.==
    Are you suggesting that argument from feelings/emotions should be counted as acceptable without the rigors of scientific inquiry? That inspiration/fulfillment is substantive evidence of something and applicable to all? Are you suggesting that anecdotal evidence is always valid?

    ==If Christians “ignore the facts” when they assert what they do about American government, then aren’t you saying they are “clueless”?==
    No, I wasn’t. I simply said that willfully remaining clueless about the foundations of the government is shameful. You are doing a lot of work to make it sound like I said anyone that disagrees with me is clueless. Did you take that as a personal insult?

    ==are…you…kidding? Are you not aware of ANY of the conservative think tanks? Any of the major thinkers of the Republican party?
    Of course, that there are such think tanks doesn’t mean that they are correct. But I am at a loss at how you cannot EVEN be aware of the existence of these think tanks. I have even played devil’s advocate with just a few of their ideas (and it seems like you have been unfamiliar with them). I am really baffled.==
    There is room to argue that “major thinkers of the Republican party” is an oxymoron. I did ask a question. Your reply contains taunts and questions but no answers. Troll much?

    ==If you look through this entire discussion, I have raised contradicting evidence on many of your points. You have suggested, ‘There is NO evidence which suggests that America was founded upon Christianity.’ Even in your request for evidence, you are dogmatically tied to a belief in what kind of evidence counts (anecdotal evidence doesn’t count. most kinds of subjective evidences don’t count. So you continue to say that there is “no credible reason,” for example, to believe in any deity. Well, how can there be, when you definition of “credible reasons” are only scientifically repeatable ones?)==
    So the sum total of your point here is that credibility needs to be redefined in order to achieve agreement or understanding? Are you saying that religion is only true if you believe it?

    ==I do not believe in gods. I believe, however, that people must seek joy and peace. They must seek authenticity — an honesty with themselves. I recognize that such authenticity is tied to the frameworks that one has…and that as a result, what one person should seek is often different than what another person should seek. If a person finds peace from being a Christian, he should wholeheartedly be Christian. However, I think that if a person does not find peace from that, then he shouldn’t try to “force” it, as such an inauthentic existence will only make him miserable.==
    Fence sitting and lecturing others seems to be your forte. That might be somewhat less generous than I should be. Clearly, you do not believe in gods and miracles.
    How do you feel about teaching creationism/ID in the science classrooms?
    How do you feel about making homosexuality illegal?
    Should we incarcerate women who have abortions on the charge of murder?
    Should rape victims be forced to marry their rapists so that sex stays within marriage?
    Should we bring slavery back?

    You have a lot of advice for how people should or could argue more effectively.
    How do you effectively argue that miracles didn’t happen?
    How do YOU effectively argue that religious law should not be incorporated into federal statutes?
    How do you effectively argue for reproductive rights for women?

    Are you suggesting that if someone finds peace in swindling retired folks out of their life savings, they should stick with that? Are you suggesting that the teachings and frameworks of religions are not harmful to society?

  53. Andrew Says:

    Please see the first paragraph of this reply. No one doubts they had an experience, only the interpretation of that experience

    I noted the first paragraph of this reply. But what I am also saying is that plenty of people, by interpreting their experiences under certain frameworks, increase and improve the value of those experiences. But you discount this.

    This is exactly why the interpretations of transcendent experiences are unreliable as evidence of anything

    Heck, it even goes to explain that rational interpretations can be unreliable evidence of anything. Since rationality, too, is just as settled in evolutionary context.

    You are stressing the need to be effective at persuasion and conversational effectiveness, but from my point of view you’re not managing either with great effect. I think I see what you’re trying to say, but it’s somewhat convoluted: To argue persuasively with a believer the arguer needs to argue from within the framework of the believer. Is that right?

    Or rather, to argue persuasively with a believer, the arguer needs to first understand what the believer believes and why. It is not necessary to argue within the framework of the believer. After all, that will often result in the same thing you do — discount certain types of evidence as being categorically unreliable/bad.

    Did you know that social sciences are a lot more “effective” at “deconverting” people than sciences are? Have you ever wondered about that? I think it’s because with a sociological or anthropological perspective, you seek to get into the frameworks of other groups. As you do this better, you legitimize those frameworks…of course, since you are studying a group of people who most certainly are not you and your group, by legitimizing and coming to terms with another group, you often debase your own framework.

    You seem to believe that the scientific method is not the only acceptable method by which to judge things. What other methods are you suggesting here?

    I’m not saying anything about *my* beliefs at that point. I am saying that even if you discount anecdotal evidence, personal interpretation of experiences, human subjectivity, and so forth, the great majority of people now and throughout time do not and have not.

    Here you presume to know what I would do. You might guess at what I would do, but you do not know. If a miracle does not perform an action in contradiction to the natural laws it is not a miracle. If it is not tested, how can it be claimed a miracle?

    In other words, you prove my point. What you haven’t considered however, are those who take the view that miracles are not supernatural — they only appear to be so from our limited understanding of the world. But it’s good to know that you have already categorically defined this out. “A miracle must be in contradiction to the natural laws. But I only believe that scientific evidence, which is conducive to discovering and testing repeatable, stable natural phenomena, is reliable evidence.”

    There’s a rub. The track record for religion and God is littered with genocide, blood sacrifice, intolerance, and all manner of everything that good humans try not to be. I won’t argue that no person finds inspiration from religion or God. I will argue that this does not justify inserting religious doctrine into the law.There’s a rub. The track record for religion and God is littered with genocide, blood sacrifice, intolerance, and all manner of everything that good humans try not to be. I won’t argue that no person finds inspiration from religion or God. I will argue that this does not justify inserting religious doctrine into the law.

    The track record of atheism is littered with genocide, sacrifice, intolerance as well. You will say, “Well, it wasn’t because they were atheists.” And anyone could respond, “Then, it wasn’t because theists were theists.”

    The simple fact is that *human history* is littered with people doing bad stuff. It’s not just religious. It’s political. It’s social. It’s historical. It’s about power. “You can argue all you want; that doesn’t change the facts.”

    Well, that’s a useful answer. Thanks for that… you’re willing to disagree with me, tell me I’m wrong, but then won’t substantiate your objections? What gives? Do you feel you are not required? Is it not worth your time? Do you not have substantive support for your position?

    Well, strictly speaking, I am not required. Since I am not explicitly speaking for my position, it is not worth my time. And I realize that if you happen to engage with others, in speaking for their position, they will provide all the substantive support for their position. All I point out is that, based on this dialogue, I think you could get into a thousand discussions, but I would predict that things would end up pretty similarly. You wouldn’t “get” their frameworks nor the support they provide for them, because you’d be too busy trying to shred their frameworks within yours.

    At times it appears that you argue simply to argue. It appears that you enjoy being the troll.

    *sigh*. If that’s all you’ve gotten from this, then I will stop right here and now.

    I hope you have a good day, week, month, year, life, whatever.


  54. […] you want a more serious response, have a look here. This light relief was brought based on original comments by blackstar9000. Posted by Chucky […]

  55. Widgetas Says:

    Let’s start near the beginning:
    “Atheism says we should dismiss all gods.”
    No it doesn’t.
    It says “There is not enough evidence to support your assertion that there is a god(s). As such, I dismiss the claim.”
    Atheism is the dismissal of other’s positive claims. It is not an assertion of a negative in itself.

  56. Mr Z Says:

    I find that it’s very difficult to get people to understand the concept of rejecting the principle of the claim entirely, not just their version of God. It seems common enough that if you say you don’t believe in gods, or that you are an atheist, the next question is one to affirm that at least you believe in some higher power. There seems no society left on Earth that does not somehow attribute all goodness in the universe to some ‘higher power’ – and they do this without a thought as to the extreme lack of goodness in the universe in general.

    I can ramble at times, but wanted to say I agree with you. Atheism does not simply dismiss this god or that.

  57. c0ntrol Says:

    “…that we should dismiss the fact there is one.”

    When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

    Thanks for proofing Roberts point. The fallacy in your logic is asserting there is only one true God.

  58. Simon Matthews Says:

    “But even if I didn’t know which one of several options is true, that doesn’t mean I should dismiss them all.”
    Yes… yes it does. Unless you have concrete evidence of any of the gods existing, then there is absolutely no point in accepting any of them. I can make up a million gods, for example the almighty Fart Goblin that created the universe. Are you going to dismiss the Fart Goblin?

  59. Lake Ritter Says:

    Your “logic” is not logic. It is emotionalism. The mythology of jesus compels you. The music of John Denver compels me. But it doesn’t affect my day to day behavior. If you are an American. I hope you do not vote.

    You can not accept that the universe exists without a creator. But the god you believe in doesn’t require a creator. How is that?? This is a question that haunts me.

    I feel embarrassed for you, or because of you–I worry that you represent “people”. But not all people believe in myths and supernatural nonsense. “Tide rolls in, tide rolls out…we don’t know why….” These are sad testimonies to the weakness of the human intellect.

  60. Kindoalkun Says:

    Atheists suck.

  61. Lake Says:

    Wow Kindoalkun. What a well reasoned and thoughtful response. It must have taken great pains to come up with that pithy “Atheists suck” thing.

    Do you think that which ever god you believe in is lucky to have you as a plucky little soldier?

    If you are trying to illustrate my comment about weak minds, then job well done.

  62. John Cook Says:

    Believers really have made up their minds haven’t they?

    It seems that the “believers” have the difficulty as they are not ready to consider any factual reality that may seem to impinge on their adopted “beliefs”, where as the atheists appear comfortable with any actual reality that would prove an actual God. However, no factual realities or substantiated proofs can be found–only belief systems that people demand others accept as real. They cannot accept that there is no actual proof. They argue without end in favor of what they have chosen to believe calling it reality, not the belief it factually is. Quite sad! Society creating fools without cause.
    .
    Having a bible is no proof of anything. It is only a book. I have seen many books, and simply because something is written does not make it a reality. To form a fact, a physical reality, a truth, it takes a bit more does it not? Yet the believers will continue to claim their beliefs are real–always however, in denial of something, anything, that seems to stack up against their belief system, and there is so much that does.

    What does it take to help a believer understand that they are brainwashed, for they so staunchly reject everything without consideration the moment it appears to tear down their beliefs. If they could think for a moment, they would realize that that is precisely the way brainwashing works. A brainwashed person does not care for reality. Their minds cannot be altered with fact because the fears that accompany brainwashing (and there are always great fears and great treasures) are so deeply set that reality cannot easily invade.

    So, if you believe, that is OK with me, but may I, as an atheist, make one small request. Please keep your beliefs to yourself and leave me alone. I am so tired of the believers needs to force that problem they have on me. I do not want to be brainwashed and forced to admit something I can find no factual evidence of without twisting reality into meaningless glop.

    Religion and all religious sayings and practices belong in the home, behind your closed doors. Religion is truly the only legal insanity. It should stay as far away from those few of us that have resisted the brainwashing and managed to stay sane regardless of the nonsensical peer pressures and the social fears those infected with religion continue to distribute, always demanding others follow what they do.

    Why do that care what we do? We do not create any pressures that we demand they conform to. We do dislike them attempting to display their religious propaganda in public places and somehow the religious take that to mean that we are putting pressure on THEM. It is the opposite, we are requesting that they not pressure us. Take their religion home, keep it quiet. In that way, no one is harmed and they can be as religious as they want–in private.

    I am in favor of making religion as a practice anywhere outside of a church or a private residence a punishable crime. Use the same penalties as the drug dealers get. That is getting off easy too as dealing drugs is a victimless crime where dealing religion is dealing social insanity and a madness that can horribly affect others–often permanently warping their thinking to the point that reality does not matter–only whatever belief system is currently in vogue.

    Belief systems are the most dangerous social diseases imaginable. Given a little time, they turn into crazed mob actions that demand of others without reason! We have seen it throughout the history of religion and we all realize how religion always equals anger and demands that soon mean bloodshed, death and often wars to rip societies apart!

  63. tnmusicman Says:

    Reblogged this on Tnmusicman's Blog and commented:
    Here is another excellent addressing of the issue that we are all atheists (we’re NOT)

  64. tnmusicman Says:

    Mr.Z comment:
    ” The problem is that for things not so grand or obvious they refuse to budge. It’s not just ‘my’ truth or logic.”

    Ohhh, kind of like atheists that refuse to budge regarding issues of Gods existence??
    Yes, for things not so obvious,YOU, the atheist are the one that refuses to budge

  65. Lake Says:

    No matter how you try to dress it up, christianity is no more or less sophisticated than voodoo. If the bible were divinely inspired, it would not be self contradictory or littered with absurdities and dubious morality. For example, if Jesus was born of a virgin as the result of immaculate conception, why do two authors attempt to trace his genealogy from David to Joseph, and why are the resulting genealogies radically inconsistent? If this crap was revealed by a some super critter, either that critter or its documentarians really blew it. So go to your church on a magic day, and stand up and sit down and chant in monotone, but don’t expect everyone to take your silly rituals seriously. And stay the hell out of my child’s science curriculum!

  66. tnmusicman Says:

    You make a lot of assumptions,Lake. For one I didn’t say a word on MY position regarding spiritual matters–only the observation that someone should “practice what they preach”.
    Btw, I’m no where NEAR your kids science curriculum. Have a pleasant day.


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